Strained States Turning to Laws to Curb Labor Unions

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    Jan 05, 2011 12:50 PM GMT
    Typical right-wing hypocrisy. Cut taxes and then attack public unions to decimate the middle class, while allowing corporations to flood the electorate with "pro-business" ads. icon_evil.gif

    Strained States Turning to Laws to Curb Labor Unions
    By STEVEN GREENHOUSE

    Faced with growing budget deficits and restive taxpayers, elected officials from Maine to Alabama, Ohio to Arizona, are pushing new legislation to limit the power of labor unions, particularly those representing government workers, in collective bargaining and politics.

    State officials from both parties are wrestling with ways to curb the salaries and pensions of government employees, which typically make up a significant percentage of state budgets. On Wednesday, for example, New York’s new Democratic governor, Andrew M. Cuomo, is expected to call for a one-year salary freeze for state workers, a move that would save $200 million to $400 million and challenge labor’s traditional clout in Albany.

    But in some cases — mostly in states with Republican governors and Republican statehouse majorities — officials are seeking more far-reaching, structural changes that would weaken the bargaining power and political influence of unions, including private sector ones.

    For example, Republican lawmakers in Indiana, Maine, Missouri and seven other states plan to introduce legislation that would bar private sector unions from forcing workers they represent to pay dues or fees, reducing the flow of funds into union treasuries. In Ohio, the new Republican governor, following the precedent of many other states, wants to ban strikes by public school teachers.


    Some new governors, most notably Scott Walker of Wisconsin, are even threatening to take away government workers’ right to form unions and bargain contracts.

    “We can no longer live in a society where the public employees are the haves and taxpayers who foot the bills are the have-nots,” Mr. Walker, a Republican, said in a speech. “The bottom line is that we are going to look at every legal means we have to try to put that balance more on the side of taxpayers.”

    Many of the proposals may never become law. But those that do are likely to reduce union influence in election campaigns, with reverberations for both parties.

    In the 2010 elections, Republicans emerged with seven more governor’s mansions and won control of the legislature in 26 states, up from 14. That swing has put unions more on the defensive than they have been in decades.

    But it is not only Republicans who are seeking to rein in unions. In addition to Mr. Cuomo, California’s new Democratic governor, Jerry Brown, is promising to review the benefits received by government workers in his state, which faces a more than $20 billion budget shortfall over the next 18 months.

    “We will also have to look at our system of pensions and how to ensure that they are transparent and actuarially sound and fair — fair to the workers and fair to the taxpayers,” Mr. Brown said in his inaugural speech on Monday.

    Many of the state officials pushing for union-related changes say they want to restore some balance, arguing that unions have become too powerful, skewing political campaigns with their large war chests and throwing state budgets off kilter with their expensive pension plans.

    But labor leaders view these efforts as political retaliation by Republicans upset that unions recently spent more than $200 million to defeat Republican candidates.

    “I see this as payback for the role we played in the 2010 elections,” said Gerald W. McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the main union of state employees. Mr. McEntee said in October that his union was spending more than $90 million on the campaign, largely to help Democrats.


    “Now there’s a bull’s-eye on our back, and they’re out to inflict pain,” he said.

    In an internal memorandum, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. warned that in 16 states, Republican lawmakers would seek to starve public sector unions of money by requiring each government worker to “opt in” before that person’s dues money could be used for political activities.

    “In the long run, if these measures deprive unions of resources, it will cut them off at their knees. They’ll melt away,” said Charles E. Wilson, a law professor at Ohio State University.

    Of all the new governors, John Kasich, Republican of Ohio, appears to be planning the most comprehensive assault against unions. He is proposing to take away the right of 14,000 state-financed child care and home care workers to unionize. He also wants to ban strikes by teachers, much the way some states bar strikes by the police and firefighters.

    “If they want to strike, they should be fired,” Mr. Kasich said in a speech. “They’ve got good jobs, they’ve got high pay, they get good benefits, a great retirement. What are they striking for?”

    Mr. Kasich also wants to eliminate a requirement that the state pay union-scale wages to construction workers on public contracts, even if the contractors are nonunion. In addition, he would like to ban the use of binding arbitration to settle disputes between the state and unions representing government employees.

    Labor leaders, who argue that government employees are not overpaid, worry that many of these measures have a much better chance of enactment than in previous years because of Republican electoral gains and recession-ravaged taxpayers’ reduced sympathy toward government workers.

    The A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s internal memo warned labor leaders, “With the enormous losses in state legislatures around the country, we will face not only more attacks on working families and their unions — we will face more serious attacks, particularly in the formerly blue or purple states that are now controlled by a Republican trifecta.”

    It pointed in particular to six states, including several former union strongholds, where Republicans control the governor’s mansion and both houses of the legislature: Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

    Naomi Walker, the A.F.L.-C.I.O.’s director of state government relations, said many voters would oppose the antiunion efforts. “I think folks in these states are going to ask whether this is the right time to weaken unions when corporations are amassing more power than ever,” she said. “We’ve been fighting against privatizing Social Security and sending jobs offshore and to get the best deal for the unemployed. It would be a lot easier for Republicans if unions weren’t there to throw up these roadblocks.”

    Union leaders particularly dread the spread of right-to-work laws, which prevail in 22 states, almost all in the South or West. Under such laws, unions and employers cannot require workers to join a union or pay any dues or fees to unions to represent them.

    Unions complain that such laws allow workers in unionized workplaces to reap the benefits of collective bargaining without paying for it. Pointing to lower wages in right-to-work states, unions say the laws lead to worse wages and benefits by weakening unions.

    But lawmakers who are pushing right-to-work laws argue that they help attract investment. “The folks who work day-to-day in economic development tell us that the No. 1 thing we can do to make Indiana more attractive to business is to make Indiana a right-to-work state,” said Jerry Torr, an Indiana state representative who backs such legislation.

    Some union leaders say that proposals like right-to-work laws, which have little effect on state budgets, show that Republicans are using budget woes as a pretext to undercut unions.

    “They’re throwing the kitchen sink at us,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “We’re seeing people use the budget crisis to make every attempt to roll back workers’ voices and any ability of workers to join collectivel
  • Posted by a hidden member.
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    Jan 05, 2011 1:38 PM GMT
    The OP can call it typical right-wing hypocrisy, but labor unions representing employees in the private sector are starting to join in to curb the excesses of the public employee labor union contracts. I posted a thread yesterday from the Wall Street Journal Opinion Section that discusses this in detail.
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    Jan 05, 2011 1:52 PM GMT
    Let's see... the US Supreme Court struck down the law that limited how corporations and unions could donate money to political campaigns.

    Many people were upset that corporations would be able to buy US elections (and actually did in 2010, with better to come in 2012). "Not a problem," said Republicans, "Because unions can donate, too, and offset the corporations." Disregarding the fact that unions have not a fraction of the money to give to campaigns that multi-billion-dollar corporations do.

    Now Republicans have begun a legislative and media campaign to eviscerate the unions, if not eliminate as many as they can. Leaving just the corporations standing alone to donate mostly to Republican candidates. Coincidence?
  • Timbales

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    Jan 05, 2011 2:10 PM GMT
    I'm not pro-union in most cases. We now have laws in place to protect people from unsafe and exploitative work environments.
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    Jan 05, 2011 2:22 PM GMT
    Timberoo saidI'm not pro-union in most cases. We now have laws in place to protect people from unsafe and exploitative work environments.

    True. Republicans want to make this solely an argument about wages and benefits, especially in the public sector. But the truth is that on average public employes earn no more than, and often less, than their private sector counterparts.

    Of equal importance to workers, however, are the working conditions you mention. On-the-job safety, lunch hours, breaks, vacations, a 40-hour week and more. Do you think those would be safe from greedy companies if unions went away? Do you think these practices came into existence out of employer charity & largesse?

    They were driven by the unions, that forced companies to accept them. But only after some epic labor relations battles going back over a century ago. Labor victories that corporations and their paid Republican agents want to reverse.
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    Jan 05, 2011 2:59 PM GMT
    southbeach1500 said
    Art_Deco said
    Of equal importance to workers, however, are the working conditions you mention. On-the-job safety, lunch hours, breaks, vacations, a 40-hour week and more. Do you think those would be safe from greedy companies if unions went away?

    Most companies in the USA are not unionized and are not competing for employees with companies that are unionized, and most everyone still gets 30 to 60 minute lunch hours, breaks, paid vacation, and in general 40 hour work weeks.

    Because many such requirements are also written into state laws, and even Federal law, thanks to unions. Plus unions set the example, and while today there is indeed less competition for workers, instead competition for jobs, all workers have come to expect the same benefits that unions won many decades ago.

    But now Republicans control many statehouses. Expect to see such worker protection laws diluted, or eliminated, and the regulatory agencies tasked with enforcing them gutted. And with fewer unions to defend workers, it will happen. Making you very happy.
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    Jan 05, 2011 3:08 PM GMT
    Art_Deco said

    But now Republicans control many statehouses. Expect to see such worker protection laws diluted, or eliminated, and the regulatory agencies tasked with enforcing them gutted. And with fewer unions to defend workers, it will happen. Making you very happy.
    Start HERE with Florida..
    Governor crook said yesterday he will eliminate.. yes I said eliminate, any and ALL 'regulations' impeding corporate ability to thrive here in Florida..

    One of his plans is to raise consumer electricity rates to subsidize corporate electricity rate slashes.... hmmmmmmm
  • Timbales

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    Jan 05, 2011 3:12 PM GMT
    Art_Deco said
    Timberoo saidI'm not pro-union in most cases. We now have laws in place to protect people from unsafe and exploitative work environments.


    Of equal importance to workers, however, are the working conditions you mention. On-the-job safety, lunch hours, breaks, vacations, a 40-hour week and more. Do you think those would be safe from greedy companies if unions went away? .


    yes, I do.
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    Jan 05, 2011 3:21 PM GMT
    Actually Timberoo, back in the early 80s I dated a manager from Almaden Wines in California. They busted their union, with his help. Worker pay immediately went from 14 dollars an hour to 7. Layoffs ensued, people quit, and many were then made into temp workers (which were given full time hours) but with the bonus for Almaden of no benefits paid out - temps didn't get benefits so it was a huge win for the company.

    He was so excited....until the co pared down management it no longer needed because of the bust.

    -Doug
  • Timbales

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    Jan 05, 2011 3:27 PM GMT
    meninlove said Actually Timberoo, back in the early 80s I dated a manager from Almaden Wines in California. They busted their union, with his help. Worker pay immediately went from 14 dollars an hour to 7. Layoffs ensued, people quit, and many were then made into temp workers (which were given full time hours) but with the bonus for Almaden of no benefits paid out - temps didn't get benefits so it was a huge win for the company.

    He was so excited....until the co pared down management it no longer needed because of the bust.

    -Doug


    I used to work for a forklift company and we had a contract with Carrier Corp for their warehouse material handling vehicles. We provided them, did maintenance and responded to emergency calls.

    The majority were the type called order-pickers, a platform that the operator stood on that went up and down with forks for a pallet the operator would load. These trucks had an overhead light and fan assembly that the union got into their contract was a safety item. It was also part of their contract that that each shift worker was assigned one truck and only had to use that truck

    So, when they $20+ an hour forklift operators decided they didn't want to work, they'd break a lightbulb or otherwise disable the fixture, making the truck 'unsafe'. They then got to sit and drink coffee until we came to fix the light.

    That's my experience, greed goes both ways.
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    Jan 05, 2011 3:27 PM GMT
    lovely
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    Jan 05, 2011 3:33 PM GMT
    "That's my experience, greed goes both ways. "

    Very true. There are good unions and ghastly ones. Just like businesses. However, it's not customary to punish all businesses by the actions of some.

    -Doug
  • rnch

    Posts: 11524

    Jan 05, 2011 3:49 PM GMT
    Timberoo said
    Art_Deco said
    Timberoo saidI'm not pro-union in most cases. We now have laws in place to protect people from unsafe and exploitative work environments.


    Of equal importance to workers, however, are the working conditions you mention. On-the-job safety, lunch hours, breaks, vacations, a 40-hour week and more. Do you think those would be safe from greedy companies if unions went away? .


    yes, I do.





    jane, you ignorant slut......


    timberoo, if you really believe this; then you are ignorant and uninformed.

    WHERE do you think the 40 hour work week, 15 minute breaks, paid vacations, sick leave, employer paid/contributed health insurance, safe, ventilated, well lighted working facilities, overtime pay past 8 hours a day or past 40 hours a week, a liveable hourly wage...and all the other decent, safe, enjoyable working conditions that AMERICAN workers enjoy came from?

    the bottomless, concerned-for-the-worker's-well-being, kind hearted, always-there-for-you heart that management has always had for the workers who make the money they enjoy spending on themselves?

    do some research! find out what working conditions were like before collective barganing and unions were organinzed! check out what the current "sweat shops" are like for workers south of the border of America.

    do you honestly believe, given the recent greed displayed by corporate CEO'S that they wouldn't leap at the chance to cut the pay, benefits and corporate bottom line robbing safety conditions that workers still have left?

    all too many 20 and 30-somethings seem to have a HUGE sense of empowerment and entitlement and an inflated level of self-worth. everything the college professors taught us in Hallowed Halls of Academia does NOT relate to the Real World!

    do you really think you can walk into the human resources office of a major corporation and negociate the wages and benefits that union workers still have today?

    if you do, you are in for a shocking reality-jolt.

    the middle class of America was/is created by unions, constantly pushing for a liveable wage, job safety and job benefits.

    IF comrporate CEO'S succeed in busting all the unions; workers will be back to the unfavorable, unsafe, poorly paid life of the early 1900's.

    Greed hasn't changed since then..if anything, it's even stronger in management. the pressure to increase bottom line profits is even more intense now than it was 100 years ago....and the quickest, easieast way for management to increase profits is to cut back on the worker's salary and benefits....while INCREASING the bonuses and benefits of management.
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    Jan 05, 2011 4:03 PM GMT
    TropicalMark said
    Art_Deco said
    But now Republicans control many statehouses. Expect to see such worker protection laws diluted, or eliminated, and the regulatory agencies tasked with enforcing them gutted. And with fewer unions to defend workers, it will happen. Making you very happy.
    Start HERE with Florida..
    Governor crook said yesterday he will eliminate.. yes I said eliminate, any and ALL 'regulations' impeding corporate ability to thrive here in Florida..

    One of his plans is to raise consumer electricity rates to subsidize corporate electricity rate slashes.... hmmmmmmm

    That oughta make the Teabaggers here happy. I wonder if those Neanderthals will even notice their home electricity bills rising? And if they do, the Republicans have a ready answer for them -- the unions are to blame!

    Well, at least the principle right-wing enemy du jour is currently unions, and not gays. We've been bumped down a notch.

    Funny, cause Florida's main industry is tourism, not manufacturing. I wonder who would benefit from cutting corporate energy bills? Orlando theme parks, perhaps? They use a lot of lights. But do you think Disney or Universal are about to lower their ticket costs as a result? Or just pocket the profit, and donate more to Republicans?

    A sweet deal for Republicans. Ordinary people will swallow the cost, and Republicans will reap the profits through increased corporate donations. And no real benefit will be seen in the Florida economy, the nominal justification for this. Ah, Republican tactics, dontcha love it? icon_razz.gif
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    Jan 05, 2011 4:22 PM GMT
    Art_Deco said
    TropicalMark said
    Art_Deco said
    But now Republicans control many statehouses. Expect to see such worker protection laws diluted, or eliminated, and the regulatory agencies tasked with enforcing them gutted. And with fewer unions to defend workers, it will happen. Making you very happy.
    Start HERE with Florida..
    Governor crook said yesterday he will eliminate.. yes I said eliminate, any and ALL 'regulations' impeding corporate ability to thrive here in Florida..

    One of his plans is to raise consumer electricity rates to subsidize corporate electricity rate slashes.... hmmmmmmm

    That oughta make the Teabaggers here happy. I wonder if those Neanderthals will even notice their home electricity bills rising? And if they do, the Republicans have a ready answer for them -- the unions are to blame!

    Well, at least the principle right-wing enemy du jour is currently unions, and not gays. We've been bumped down a notch.

    Funny, cause Florida's main industry is tourism, not manufacturing. I wonder who would benefit from cutting corporate energy bills? Orlando theme parks, perhaps? They use a lot of lights. But do you think Disney or Universal are about to lower their ticket costs as a result? Or just pocket the profit, and donate more to Republicans?

    A sweet deal for Republicans. Ordinary people will swallow the cost, and Republicans will reap the profits through increased corporate donations. And no real benefit will be seen in the Florida economy, the nominal justification for this. Ah, Republican tactics, dontcha love it? icon_razz.gif
    LOL didnt you hear? Disney world just RAISED new ticket prices! For FLORIDA residents!
    ORLANDO (CBS4) - Walt Disney World is offering a familiar promotion for Florida residents. A special 4-day pass at a discounted rate, problem is, the discounted price is actually 20-percent higher this year than it was last year.

    Thanks gov Crook! That corporate subsidy idea you have is 'thinking about the children' isnt it?
  • Timbales

    Posts: 13993

    Jan 05, 2011 4:28 PM GMT
    rnch said
    Timberoo said
    Art_Deco said
    Timberoo saidI'm not pro-union in most cases. We now have laws in place to protect people from unsafe and exploitative work environments.


    Of equal importance to workers, however, are the working conditions you mention. On-the-job safety, lunch hours, breaks, vacations, a 40-hour week and more. Do you think those would be safe from greedy companies if unions went away? .


    yes, I do.





    jane, you ignorant slut......


    timberoo, if you really believe this; then you are ignorant and uninformed.

    WHERE do you think the 40 hour work week, 15 minute breaks, paid vacations, sick leave, employer paid/contributed health insurance, safe, ventilated, well lighted working facilities, overtime pay past 8 hours a day or past 40 hours a week, a liveable hourly wage...and all the other decent, safe, enjoyable working conditions that AMERICAN workers enjoy came from?

    the bottomless, concerned-for-the-worker's-well-being, kind hearted, always-there-for-you heart that management has always had for the workers who make the money they enjoy spending on themselves?

    do some research! find out what working conditions were like before collective barganing and unions were organinzed! check out what the current "sweat shops" are like for workers south of the border of America.

    do you honestly believe, given the recent greed displayed by corporate CEO'S that they wouldn't leap at the chance to cut the pay, benefits and corporate bottom line robbing safety conditions that workers still have left?

    all too many 20 and 30-somethings seem to have a HUGE sense of empowerment and entitlement and an inflated level of self-worth. everything the college professors taught us in Hallowed Halls of Academia does NOT relate to the Real World!

    do you really think you can walk into the human resources office of a major corporation and negociate the wages and benefits that union workers still have today?

    if you do, you are in for a shocking reality-jolt.

    the middle class of America was/is created by unions, constantly pushing for a liveable wage, job safety and job benefits.

    IF comrporate CEO'S succeed in busting all the unions; workers will be back to the unfavorable, unsafe, poorly paid life of the early 1900's.

    Greed hasn't changed since then..if anything, it's even stronger in management. the pressure to increase bottom line profits is even more intense now than it was 100 years ago....and the quickest, easieast way for management to increase profits is to cut back on the worker's salary and benefits....while INCREASING the bonuses and benefits of management.


    I don't think labor laws would be repealed if there were fewer unions.

    I'm not anti-union, but I think the good they accomplished is in the past.
  • Timbales

    Posts: 13993

    Jan 05, 2011 5:25 PM GMT
    There are a lot of things that were accepted and not considered illegal that are now considered unacceptable and have been made illegal through our legislative process. I think labor laws are one of those things. I don't see unions as holding back the tides of corporate tyranny and greed so much as making sure they get what they feel is their own share. If that was the case, then every current non-union employee would be working in for the bare legal minimums of wages and benefits.
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    Jan 05, 2011 6:32 PM GMT
    Timberoo saidThere are a lot of things that were accepted and not considered illegal that are now considered unacceptable and have been made illegal through our legislative process. I think labor laws are one of those things. I don't see unions as holding back the tides of corporate tyranny and greed so much as making sure they get what they feel is their own share. If that was the case, then every current non-union employee would be working in for the bare legal minimums of wages and benefits.


    Actually, you're wrong. Will labor laws be repealed the minute unions disappear? Probably not. But given that the House Republicans have vowed to reduce discretionary spending by 20%, where do you suppose they'll cut?

    Many have said they are for the elimination of the Depts. of Energy and Education, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and defunding AmeriCorps. How far behind those do you support OSHA, and the Labor Relations Board and, even the Department of Labor will be? The first step will probably be to defund these departments and then argue for the their elimination.

    Further, many longitudinal and cross-sector studies have demonstrates that higher rates of unionization correlate with good benefits and pay in non-union jobs and sectors.

    The groups most engaged in preserving those laws and agencies are unions. They will be the ones at the frontline of these fights at the federal level, which is why the state level GOP wants to damage or eliminate them.