Right-to-Work – an Existential threat to the Middle Class
I am not the union. Our staff is not the union. YOU are the union. We work for our members, the brothers and sisters of UFCW Local 135. We are here for you to file grievances, help with your benefits and to negotiate your contracts.
It is important for you to be aware of this because we have a direct threat coming our way that will affect your livelihood and the strength of the union if we are not vigilant.
We are going to need your help to protect your rights.
It’s called National Right-to-Work, and what it will do is give you the right-to-work for less. Essentially, it weakens unions, so when it comes to negotiating your salaries, pensions and health care. we won’t have much leverage.
U.S. House of Representatives Republicans Steve King (R-IA) and Joe Wilson (R-SC) introduced a bill in February that would institute right-to work policies nationally, if it becomes law – it will affect all unions incredibly negatively.
Right-to-work laws would give workers the option of not joining the union, while they still have full rights to representation.
Republicans want to remove the “expensive prevailing-wage mandates” on public projects and to take away collective bargaining in private business. In other words, they want CEOs and shareholders to make even more money off your hard work, while being able to pay you less. This would devastate the middle class.
This type of proposal is nothing new in Washington. Similar legislation has been introduced in the past. The difference this time is the political climate. We have republican majorities in the House of Representatives, the Senate and we have a President who will sign into law any bill the republicans give him.
Meanwhile, we have more and more states under GOP control that have passed and will continue to pass their own right-to-work laws. At the moment, we have 27 Right-To-Work states in the U.S.
According to research by the Economic Policy Institute:
• States with right-to-work laws have lower wages and incomes. On average, workers make $6,109 a year (12.1%) less annually than workers in other states ($44,401, compared with $50,511).
• The median household income in states with these laws is $8,174 (13.9%) less than in other states ($50,712 vs. $58,886). The number of low-wage occupations in these states is 29.6 percent, compared with 22.8 percent of jobs in states with strong unions.
• States with right-to-work laws have lower rates of health insurance coverage. And now that the republican majority is dismantling the Affordable Care Act, we will go back to the days of when people died or suffered and suffered money problems because they have no health care when the get sick.
• States with right-to-work laws have higher poverty and infant mortality rates. Poverty rates are higher (15.3% overall and 21.4% for children), compared with poverty rates of 12.8% overall and 18.0% for children in states without these laws. The infant mortality rate is 12.4% higher in these states.
• States with right-to-work laws invest less in education. They spend 32.5% less per pupil on elementary and secondary education than other states.
• States with right-to-work Laws Have Higher Workplace Fatality Rates. The rate of workplace deaths is 49% higher in these states, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Republicans and wealthy businesses will face a Democratic filibuster in the Senate, but they have all the momentum on this issue, and there’s no reason to think that will change anytime soon.
Under U.S. labor law, a union must represent all the employees in a workplace it has unionized, even those who may not want to be in a union. Unions argue that it’s only fair for all workers to join the union for collective bargaining and other services. After all, they are all represented.
But right-to-work laws make such arrangements illegal, allowing workers to opt out of the union although unions will have to represent them anyway – no matter what. Supporters of right-to-work laws argue that no worker should be required to support a union, regardless of whether or not it bargains on their behalf.
Twenty-seven states are now right-to-work, and Missouri and New Hampshire could soon follow suit. Union-dense, Democratic-leaning states on the coasts are highly unlikely to pass their own right-to-work laws, but a federal statute could take care of that for us. The passage of national a right-to-work bill would make it the law of the land in all states, regardless of their own laws.
The history of right-to-work is rooted in racism and sexism and its goal has always been to rid the United States of unions and workers rights. Right-to-Work began in 1936 as pro-segregationist and anti-communist in the South.
The history of anti-labor right-to-work laws started in Houston. In the 1930s Vance Muse, an oil industry lobbyist, founded the Christian American Association with backing from Southern oil companies and industrialists from the Northeast.
They even used the term, “right-to-work,” because they wanted to give blacks and children the right-to-work by opposing laws, including letting them have Sundays off and child labor laws.
During the 1930s, union membership exploded despite their efforts –workers wages and working conditions improved and unions became a political threat. Which brings us back to where we are now.
Keeping all this in mind, we will ask you to step up and fight, and we want you to be ready. We may ask you to call, or text your representatives. We may even ask you to write to them. This is an existential threat to the middle class and to our way of life.