Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) yesterday backtracked on his previous assertion that a union-busting move to pass a so-called “right-to-work” provision into law wasn’t on his agenda, and by the end of the day, both the Michigan House of Representatives and the Michigan state Senate had introduced and passed separate pieces of legislation aimed at the state’s union workforce.
Michigan Republicans are pursuing the laws because Indiana Republicans passed “right-to-work” last year and, according to Snyder, the state needs such a law to remain competitive. In reality, though, such laws have negative effects on workers and little effect on economic growth, and Michigan Republicans are pursuing the laws without public debate:
The legislation: Both the state House and state Senate passed legislation yesterday that prohibits private sector unions from requiring members to pay dues. The Senate followed by immediately passing a law that extends the same prohibition for public sector unions, though firefighters and police officers are exempt. The state House included a budget appropriations measure that is intended to prevent the state’s voters from being able to legally challenge the law through a ballot referendum. Due to state law, both houses are prevented from voting on legislation passed by the other for five days, so neither will be able to fully pass the legislation until Tuesday at the earliest.
The process: Union leaders and Democrats claim that Republicans are pushing the legislation through in the lame-duck session to hide the intent of the measures from citizens, and because the legislation would face more trouble after the new House convenes in January. Michigan Republicans hold a 63-47 advantage in the state House, but Democrats narrowed the GOP majority to just eight seats in November. Six Republicans opposed the House measure; five of them won re-election in 2012 (the sixth retired). And Michigan Republicans have good reason to pursue the laws without public debate. Though the state’s voters are evenly split on whether it should become a right-to-work state, 78 percent of voters said the legislature “should focus on issues like creating jobs and improving education, and not changing state laws or rules that would impact unions or make further changes in collective bargaining.”
The effect: While Snyder and Republicans pitched “right-to-work” as a pro-worker move aimed at improving the economy, studies show such legislation can cost workers money. The Economic Policy Institute found that right-to-work laws cost all workers, union and otherwise, $1,500 a year in wages and that they make it harder for workers to obtain pensions and health coverage. “If benefits coverage in non-right-to-work states were lowered to the levels of states with these laws, 2 million fewer workers would receive health insurance and 3.8 million fewer workers would receive pensions nationwide,” David Madland and Karla Walter from the Center for American Progress wrote earlier this year. And right-to-work laws and the drop in union membership that follows have a significant impact on the middle class. Multiple studies, meanwhile, show that such laws have a negligible impact on economic growth. “Research shows that there is no relationship between right-to-work laws and state unemployment rates, state per capita income, or state job growth,” EPI wrote in a recent report about Michigan. And “right-to-work” laws alsodecrease worker safety and can hurt small businesses.
Union leaders are, of course, aghast at Snyder and the GOP’s right-to-work push.
Hell, if workers at Wal-Mart can organize and go on strike, then anything’s possible.
BREAKING: MCDONALDS WORKERS STRIKING IN NEW YORK CITY!
Sign the petition: http://bit.ly/QseFRV
“After three years of working at the McDonald’s restaurant on 51st Street and Broadway, Alterique Hall earns $8 an hour — and is yearning for something better.
“So when he heard about an unusual campaign that aims to unionize dozens of fast-food restaurants in New York in the hope of raising wages to $15 an hour, Mr. Hall, 23, was quick to sign on.
“Mr. Hall has enlisted in what workplace experts say is the biggest effort to unionize fast-food workers ever undertaken in the United States, a campaign that will be announced publicly on Thursday. The effort — backed by community and civil rights groups, religious leaders and a labor union — has engaged 40 full-time organizers in recent months to enlist workers at McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Domino’s, Taco Bell and other fast-food restaurants across the city.”
Hostess Brands said it likely won’t make an announcement until Friday morning on whether it will move to liquidate its business, after the company had set a Thursday deadline for striking employees to return to work.
The maker of Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Wonder Bread had warned employees that would file a motion in U.S. Bankruptcy Court to unwind its business and sell off assets if plant operations didn’t return to normal levels by 5 p.m. EST Thursday. That would result in the loss of about 18,000 jobs.
A spokesman for Hostess, Lance Ignon, said the company would likely make an announcement Friday after assessing plant operations Thursday evening.
Hostess, based in Irving, Texas, has already reached a contract agreement with its largest union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. But thousands of members in its second-biggest union went on strike late last week after rejecting in September a contract offer that cut wages and benefits. Officials for the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union say the company stopped contributing to workers’ pensions last year.
Hostess announced on Monday the closures of three bakeries due to the nationwide strike. The facilities employ 627 workers, according to the Associated Press.
A representative for the bakery-workers union did not respond to request for comment. The Teamsters meanwhile are urging the smaller union to hold a secret ballot on whether to continue striking. Citing its financial experts who had access to the company’s books, the Teamsters say that Hostess’ warning of liquidation is “not an empty threat or a negotiating tactic” but a certain outcome if workers continue striking.
The Teamsters also noted that the strike put its union members in the “horrible position” of deciding whether to cross picket lines.
Hostess, a privately held company, filed for Chapter 11 protection in January, its second trip through bankruptcy court in less than a decade. The company cited increasing pension and medical costs for employees as one of the drivers behind its latest filing. Hostess has argued that workers must make concessions for it to exit bankruptcy and improve its financial position.
As much as I like Twinkies and other Hostess brands, I think that the striking workers are right on this one. I stand with the striking workers!
The right-wing media falsely reported that Alabama-based utility companies were turned away in New Jersey for hurricane disaster relief because they use non-union labor. However, multiple Alabama utility companies mentioned in these media reports say the claims are “rumors” and simply “not true,” and New Jersey utility companies have also denied that non-union working crews have been turned away.
Local Alabama news station WAFF was quoted in multiple right-wing news reports after it claimed that three utility crews from Alabama were not allowed to help with storm aid in New Jersey because they were non-union. Predictably, Fox News picked up the report almost immediately. During the November 2 edition of Fox & Friends, the hosts asserted that non-union crews were not allowed to help in New Jersey hurricane relief, and frequent guest Charles Payne added that this is “one of the more despicable aspects of what we are seeing”:
Following this report, Drudge linked to other right-wing websites making similar claims under the headlines “Non-union crews turned away from NJ…” and “‘No Red Tape’?”:
Later on Fox, host Gretchen Carlson issued a minor update explaining that many of their viewers had in fact seen Alabama crews working in New Jersey.
WAFF, the source of the original reports, has since updated its post about these claims. It continues to report claims from an Alabama-based Decatur Utilities employee that his crew was presented with documents by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) that required union affiliation in order to provide disaster relief. However, WAFF clarifies that Decatur Utilities’ general manager said crews “were not turned away but were made to believe that affiliating with the union was a requirement to work.”
NorthJersey.com further noted that New Jersey utility companies were accepting all offers of help, regardless of union status:
Non-union crews should not be concerned about coming to New Jersey to help bolster the efforts of New Jersey utility companies, officials said today.
“We are accepting any available resource,” said Karen Johnson, a spokeswoman for PSE&G.
“We are working with our union and have non union crews participating in our restoration efforts,” said Ron Morano, a spokesman for JCP&L. “We continue to accept support from out of state utility companies and contractors.”
Despite the photos of devastation and families who’ve lost everything, union bosses still found time to play politics in the middle of a natural disaster.
This is similar to what union bosses pulled during the blizzard in New York.
I thought Chris Christie was infamous for taking on the unions? Some via Twitter have speculated that Gov. Christie may be unaware that this is happening. I’m willing to extend him the benefit of the doubt for then, but now after this story has blown up online there can be no ignorance of the matter. People need help. Sandy didn’t happen in August or early September like Katrina, Ike, and Irene. It’s November now. People are cold.Unions first, hurricane victims later. This blood-boiling report from Alabama’s WAFF 48 News will come as no surprise to those familiar with the Big Labor protection racket.Guess we’ll see if Obama’s “We leave nobody behind” vow has a union label sewn on it.
Excuse me, righties! The unions are NOT playing politics during the post-Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts, and it’s folks like you, Twitchy, and other right-wing cuckoos that are politicizing this, NOT the unions or the left!
Cesar Chavez, organizer of the United Farm Workers.
prints i am working on…
have more work on facebook frank wallz
Riot police arrest peaceful protesters rallying for striking Walmart workers
October 2, 2012
Hundreds of people gathered at a major Walmart distribution center Monday in Elwood, Illinois to stand in solidarity with workers who have been on strike since mid-September in response to unsafe working conditions and unfair wages.
“No one should come to work and endure extreme temperatures, inhale dust and chemical residue, and lift thousands of boxes weighing up to 250lbs with no support. Workers never know how long the work day will be- sometimes its two hours, sometimes its 16 hours. Injuries are common, as is discrimination against women and illegal retaliation against workers who speak up for better treatment,” Warehouse Workers for Justice states at its official website.
The discrimination aspect of this list of grievances includes widespread sexual harassment and intimidation of female warehouse workers, an epidemic largely ignored by the establishment media, even among individuals, such as the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof, known for focusing on female worker equality and empowerment in other countries.
“When I worked at the Walmart warehouse in Elwood, I was sexually harassed on a regular basis…I literally got locked inside a trailer because that’s what the men thought I was there for…I reported it to my supervisor, but he didn’t do anything about it,” said Ulyonda Dickerson, a worker at the Walmart warehouse in Elwood, in a report released by Warehouse Workers for Justice.
“I told the supervisors about it, but they definitely don’t listen. One supervisor I had tried to tell said, ‘I didn’t see that.’ Just because you didn’t see it, doesn’t mean it didn’t happen,” said Samantha Rodriguez, another Elwood warehouse employee, in the same report. “When I went to another supervisor about the harassment, he asked me out on a date. I said no, and eventually I got fired.”
In response to Monday’s peaceful protester, riot police from Will County and Elwood were unleashed on the crowd, and witnesses tweeted a series of disturbing photos, including officers in full riot regalia (face shields, clubs, body armor,) and what appears to be a Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) vehicle.
There was some confusion about the police’s jurisdiction on Twitter with individuals speculating the officers were private police given their “paramilitary” appearance.
Photos from the protest show officers restraining some protesters with zip-ties after police declared the event an “unlawful assembly.” Ultimately, 17 peaceful protesters were arrested, and activists sang “We Shall Overcome” as they were cuffed and walked to a police transport unit.
Elwood police Chief Fred Hayes said, “Police officers always have to prepare for the worst thing that could possibly happen.”
Among those arrested were Will County Board member Jackie Traynere, the Rev. Craig Purchase of Mount Zion Tabernacle Church in Joliet, the Rev. Raymond Lescher of Sacred Heart Church in Joliet and Charlotte Droogan, lay minister at Universalist Unitarian Church of Joliet, Southtown Star reports.
Mike Compton, one of the striking warehouse workers who walked off the job, said after working at the warehouse for three months, he was a veteran worker because the turnover is so high. He said everyone quits because “They call us bodies and that’s what we feel like.”
Wal-Mart, famous for union-busting and employee abuse, is heavily subsidized by the state i.e. U.S. taxpayers with many of its employees relying on food stamps and state-run health insurance for survival.
Despite these dire working conditions, Wal-Mart claims the WWJ is out to fulfil a nefarious agenda.
This isn’t really about Walmart at all,” said company spokesman Dan Fogleman. “… The union is focused on fulfilling its own agenda.”
WWJ is a “union-funded, union-backed” organization that wants more union members who pay dues that can be used by union bosses on their political agenda, Fogleman said.
WWJ spokeswoman Leah Fried responded, saying WWJ is 95 percent funded by foundations and donations, and while the union is supporting the group, so are many others.
“It’s so incredible that his response for people not getting paid for heavy, difficult labor is to say it’s just a union-backed thing,” she said. “They feel it’s somehow OK for this to go on in their warehouses.”
The action in Elwood follows a walkout of non-union workers at a large Walmart warehouse near Riverside, California, that recently ended after 15 days due to workers’ family financial problems. In These Times journalist David Moberg credits the Riverside workout for inspiring the Sept. 15 walkout by 30-plus workers at Wal-Mart’s huge Elwood warehouse.