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“Right to Work” Rears Its Ugly Head Again

It must be Groundhog Day. There’s another Supreme Court case that could “deal a major blow to labor unions.”

Yes, the National Right to Work Foundation is getting another chance to impose “Right to Work” on the entire nation through Supreme Court fiat.

Nevermind how voters may feel about it. After Maine lawmakers passed “Right to Work” in 1947, voters repealed the law by a two-to-one majority. In 1958, California and Colorado voters refused “Right to Work” by three-to-two margins; Ohio voters turned it down two-to-one; and voters in the state of Washington said “no” by a margin of nine-to-five. Ohio lawmakers ignored the 1958 ballot results and passed “Right to Work” in 2011; and voters repealed the law by an overwhelming margin. Missouri lawmakers passed “Right to Work” last year; but the law is now on hold, and voters will have the final say in a referendum this fall.

Nevermind the state legislatures that have had second thoughts about “Right to Work.” In both New Hampshire and Delaware, state legislatures adopted “Right to Work” in 1947 – and then repealed it in 1949. Louisiana’s legislature passed “Right to Work” in 1954 and repealed it in 1956 (and then passed it again in 1976). Indiana passed “Right to Work” in 1957 and repealed it in 1965 (and then passed it again in 2012).

Nevermind that conservatives are supposed to be opposed to judicial activism. The National Right to Work Foundation wants the Supreme Court to make “Right to Work” the law of the land. The Foundation has been using court cases to chip away at labor unions since 1968 – and they’re proud of it. You can read a list of the court cases they’ve brought against unions here.

If they succeed, what happens next? All the press coverage has been about the potential damage to labor unions. But what about

Government contracting? The National Right to Work Foundation wants the Supreme Court to rule that government contracting is an “inherently political” process. That may sound good to the Foundation, in the context of union-busting, but what about the rest of government contracting? At last report, the federal government negotiated more than 3.8 million contracts a year, totaling about $440 billion in spending – and about 2% of the federal workforce was made up of “contract professionals” (who are not union members). What happens if the Supreme Court adds “politics” to the list of reasons a procurement decision can be challenged? Will taxpayers or business competitors be able to challenge contract decisions on the basis of politics? (For instance, the $24 million refrigerator upgrade to Air Force One – was that decision tainted by the $16.7 million in lobbying that Boeing paid for, last year? The more than $1 million its PAC has “invested” in this year’s federal campaigns? The more than $2 million it spent on the 2016 campaigns?)

Employers’ rights? The National Right to Work Foundation wants the Supreme Court to rule that an employee’s “right” to not associate with the union takes precedence over his employer’s right to determine conditions of employment. That may sound good to the Foundation, in the context of union-busting, but what about the rest of employer-employee relations? What happens when an employer requires a security clearance, but the employee wants to associate with terrorist organizations? When an employer wants to maintain a mainstream “brand” but the employee wants to use Facebook and Twitter to advertise his association with the American Nazi Party?

States’ rights to decide the terms and conditions of their workers’ employment?

40 years’ worth of judicial precedents, not just in labor law, but also First Amendment interpretation? (If workers’ First Amendment rights trump their public employers’ interests, won’t that open the floodgates for “leaks” to the press?)

What about all the other potential ramifications of this case?

Yep, it’s Groundhog Day. Another opportunity for the Supreme Court to overlook long-term consequences, in a case brought by political insiders.

Remember Citizens United? Citizens United President David Bossie is on the GOP’s National Committee and a “veteran conservative operative.” The Supreme Court used his court case to overturn campaign finance laws. Now Congress is openly doing what their donors (not voters) want. Read the Brennan Center’s How Citizens United Changed Politics and Shaped the Tax Bill.  Read Politico’s Big donors ready to reward Republicans for tax cuts. Is this really what the Supreme Court had in mind, when it ruled in Citizens United?

Remember Hobby Lobby? Salon describes how Hobby Lobby is “quietly funding a vast right-wing movement.” The Supreme Court used its case to give religious rights to for-profit corporations, and now we’re beginning to see the consequences. Cardozo Law Review explored how employers could use the Hobby Lobby decision to sidestep employment-discrimination laws. And at least one federal court has already allowed a corporation to fire an employee for “religious” reasons, notwithstanding the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Notice how “Right to Work” is being pushed by special-interest organizations? The Koch-connected American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity. The Koch-affiliated US Chamber of Commerce. And, of course, the Koch-funded National Right to Work groups. Notice how it’s not being pushed by actual businesses? Not in New Hampshire. Not in Ohio. But the ripple effect of this court case could be huge.

Groundhog Day. Janus v. AFSCME. Another chance for the Supreme Court to reinforce the impression that it’s an extension of the Republican Party. After all the headlines about Merrick Garland and Neil Gorsuch, what are citizens supposed to think? Both President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell claim Justice Gorsuch as “an accomplishment.” The RNC based a fundraising campaign on his confirmation. The Court just blocked a lower court’s order that North Carolina redraw its election maps, because the old maps were unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering that favored the GOP. (And now Pennsylvania’s GOP legislators want the Court to block a similar ruling in their state.)

Groundhog Day. Another attack by the special interests that have been transforming our government into an oligarchy. (“Oligarchy” – government by the few, especially despotic power exercised by a small and privileged group for corrupt or selfish purposes)

Voters’ view, last election day: 72 percent agree “the American economy is rigged to advantage the rich and powerful.” 75 percent agree that “America needs a strong leader to take the country back from the rich and powerful.”

Granite Staters’ view, now: only 14% think voters have more influence than special interests.

Groundhog Day, the movie, reminds us that we can be doomed to repeat the same thing over and over until we “get it right.” (How fitting that the movie is now back in theaters for its 25th anniversary.)

It’s supposed to be our government. When are we going to get this right?

Once Again Faith Leaders Come Out To Support Workers Rights To Organize

Right To Work 2

This month in Missouri the legislature is pushing two bills that we recently defeated here in New Hampshire, Right to Work (for less) and Paycheck Protection/Deception (barring employees from having union dues deducted from their paycheck).

Durning the draconian rule of former Speaker O’Brien both of these anti-worker bills were pushed through the house.  Workers throughout New Hampshire came out in force to oppose these bill at public hearings.  One of the reasons that New Hampshire was able to fight these bills back was labor’s relationship with local faith organizations.  Groups like the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization lead by Arnie Alpert, and Rev Gail Kinney spoke at every Right to Work for less hearing in Concord.

For years the Catholic church has been working to expand the rights of workers in an effort to combat poverty.  I was very please today to share an editorial from Monsignor Jack Schuler of Missouri.  Monsignor Schuler explains the strong relationship between workers and the Catholic church.

(Published by the St Louis Post Dispatch)

Today, our church celebrates the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker. When Pope Pius XII instituted this tradition 58 years ago, he honored the long-standing link between Joseph and the cause of working people. This year, the call to honor and remember working people couldn’t be more timely — or more necessary.

While working people in our communities continue to struggle, too many politicians in Jefferson City seem not to notice. Many have been relentless in their attacks on basic protections for working people, protections long supported by the Catholic Church and other faith traditions. Meanwhile hundreds of thousands in our state suffer from inadequate health care and too few jobs that pay a living wage.

So-called right-to-work and paycheck-protection bills seek to limit the right of working people to organize and silence their voices. If enacted, these laws would make it more difficult for hardworking first nurses, first responders, teachers and other workers to advocate for safer working conditions and provide critical services to our communities.

These bills, along with attempts to eliminate prevailing wage protections, seek to lower wages in our communities. They would make it even more difficult for families struggling to get by — and would unfairly reward corporate greed. Simply put, on this Feast of St. Joseph in 2013, working people in Missouri face an onslaught of dangerous and unfair legislation.

Catholic teaching strongly supports the right of workers to form labor unions in order to bargain collectively for just wages and benefits. In fact, it encourages workers to form unions based on the right of free association. So-called paycheck-protection and right-to-work bills seek to limit the ability of working people to organize and collectively bargain. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is clear: “We vehemently oppose violations of the freedom to associate, for they are an intolerable attack on social solidarity.”

Corporations give unlimited money and resources in order to purchase influence at the statehouse. Corporate lobbyists have exempted themselves from playing by the same rules they are trying to make everybody else play by — in fact, they are creating their own rules.

In his Easter address, Pope Francis called for peace in a world “divided by greed looking for easy gain, wounded by the selfishness which threatens human life and the family.” To make real change and heal these wounds, we need to work together to strengthen protections for working people and support collective bargaining rights and association. Although far from perfect, labor unions work for job security and fight against discrimination for all workers, not just those in unions. Without the ability to organize and collectively bargain, attacks will remain unanswered.

When addressing the G20 Summit in 2009, Pope Benedict XVI stated “in the light of the present global economic crisis, this analysis reveals all of its relevance: We see, in fact, that it is precisely from this root of greed that the entire crisis was born.” This is as true locally as it is globally — when greed is unchecked, when corporations are unaccountable, working people suffer the consequences and injustice is allowed to flourish.

It’s time for politicians to stop giving more and more to CEOs and corporate-funded special interests and start working to create jobs and help working people make it through these tough times.

As we remember St. Joseph the Worker, let’s focus on restoring dignity to hard work and recommit ourselves to working for justice. We are all connected by our work and our communities — and we all should call upon our elected leaders to support and strengthen those bonds, not undermine them.

Just days from now, the Missouri legislature will end the 2013 session. Our elected officials have critical choices to make and not much time to make the right decision. As a person of faith, I call on politicians in Jefferson City to break the chains of “business as usual” by understanding the moral obligation to work for justice — including economic justice for our communities.

Let’s honor St. Joseph on his feast day and every day by keeping our focus on justice for all those who work.

Monsignor Jack Schuler is pastor of St. Ferdinand parish in Florissant and member of the Workers Rights Board of Missouri Jobs with Justice, a coalition of almost 100 different organizations statewide. Through Missouri JwJ, faith, community, labor and student groups work to promote economic justice.

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