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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 After Maine lawmakers passed “Right to Work” in 1947, voters repealed the law by a two-to-one majority.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 Ohio lawmakers ignored the 1958 ballot results and passed “Right to Work” in 2011; and voters repealed the law by an overwhelming margin.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 In both New Hampshire and Delaware, state legislatures adopted “Right to Work” in 1947 – and then repealed it in 1949. Louisiana’s legislature passed “Right to Work” in 1954 and repealed it in 1956 (and then passed it again in 1976). Indiana passed “Right to Work” in 1957 and repealed it in 1965 (and then passed it again in 2012).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?

N.C. Anti-Gay Law Suppresses Wages for all Workers, Union Leader Says

Bill prohibits localities from increasing minimum wage above federal, state minimum

WASHINGTON – The North Carolina law striking down anti-discrimination protections for gays, lesbians, and transgender individuals also blocks cities and towns from increasing wages for the state’s lowest-paid workers, the head of the largest federal employee union said today.

“This is an undemocratic bill that not only discriminates against members of the LGBT community but suppresses wages for working class people who are struggling to make ends meet on $7.25 an hour,” said American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr., who is a native of North Carolina.

 “The state legislators who passed this shameful bill are tying the hands of locally elected leaders and denying them the ability to pass laws that improve the lives of their own citizens. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated event. Alabama’s state leaders recently enacted their own bill that prevents cities from increasing the minimum wage above the federal floor of $7.25 an hour.

“If lawmakers in Charlotte believe that the state’s anti-discrimination laws don’t go far enough to protect their residents, they should be allowed to enhance those protections. If local officials in Birmingham want to raise the minimum wage so entry-level workers can afford to live there, they should be allowed to do that.

“Inaction at the state level is bad enough, but preventing local leaders from taking action on their own is undemocratic and un-American.”

AFL-CIO Slams North Carolina ‘Imminent Disturbance’ Rule with New Video

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, in a show of solidarity with progressive activists and faith leaders in North Carolina, the AFL-CIO released a video slamming the North Carolina state legislature for establishing undemocratic ‘imminent disturbance’ rules, aimed at limiting the First Amendment rights of North Carolinians.

“The very best of America has come from imminent disturbance, and to limit people’s right to assemble and protest is both unacceptable and un-American,” said AFL-CIO Strategic Advisor and Communications Director, Eric Hauser. “We stand together with the thousands who have spoken out against these reprehensible rules, and call on North Carolina’s leaders to reverse course and restore the basic rights we fight for every day.”

These rules, established earlier this month, would prohibit individuals from engaging in activity deemed to be an ‘imminent disturbance’ to the North Carolina statehouse. The new rules directly impact participants of the ‘Moral Mondays’, which have shed light on extreme right-wing policies introduced in the North Carolina statehouse.

The video, entitled ‘Imminent Disturbance’, can be seen below.

Epilogue: Sturm Ruger decision to move to N.C. all about the benjamins

Right To Work is Wrong for NH

Written by William Tucker on Miscellany: Blue

When gun manufacturer Sturm, Ruger & Co. announced in July that they would not be locating their new manufacturing plant in New Hampshire, Republicans blamed it on the legislature’s failure to enact a right-to-work law.

“Despite Legislative Democrats’ mantra that no business considers right to work laws in coming to a state or staying in a state…” wrote former state House Speaker Bill O’Brien, “here’s direct evidence, and a demonstrable loss of great manufacturing jobs in New Hampshire, that they do.”

An Associated Press behind-the-scenes analysis puts that notion to rest. North Carolina gave the gun manufacturer more than 15 million reasons to locate the plant in the Tar Heel State that had nothing to do with right-to-work.

As early as March, the report notes, Sturm Ruger had selected a former textile mill in North Carolina as the likely site for their new plant. “Yet Ruger dangled the possibility it still could go elsewhere” in order to extract financial concessions from the state. And extract they did:

Gun manufacturer Sturm, Ruger & Co. made clear early and publicly that North Carolina was its preferred location for a new factory and the hundreds of jobs it would bring. But the company kept alive enough doubt that state officials raised their offer of tax breaks and other sweeteners three times.

The state and company ended a nearly five-month courtship in mid-August by agreeing on a package of incentives that could be worth $13.7 million if Ruger meets investment and hiring goals. Including additional incentives from the town of Mayodan and Rockingham County, the total package could be worth $15.5 million.

Labor Day Message from CWA President Larry Cohen

Washington, D.C. — This Labor Day, we are celebrating some victories and looking ahead to big challenges. We know that times are tough and bargaining can be brutal. But we’re encouraged, because we’re armed with a strategy that enables us to build our power by building a movement of allies – civil rights activists, labor, greens, community organizers, people of faith, immigrant rights groups, the LGBT community and others — who share our vision of social and economic justice.

We know that we can’t reach our goals of secure jobs and bargaining rights on our own. No one group can go it alone. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its allies are too entrenched, too wealthy, too able to exert pressure and control over our democracy. But by working together, like-minded people are bringing about real change.

That’s why National People’s Action’s Sunflower Community partners with our local and T-Mobile activists in Wichita, Kansas, to help win workers’ rights and real immigration reform. That’s why CWA locals in North Carolina are joining the “moral Monday” demonstrations against that state’s assault on voting rights. That’s why CWA members are working with the Sierra Club, Citizens Trade Campaign and Jobs with Justice activists to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership that’s a bad deal for workers, consumers and the environment. That’s why CWA activists have teamed up with faith leaders to support fast-food workers’ strikes for fair wages in St. Louis and other cities. And it’s why 2,000 CWAers joined the crowd at the 50th anniversary March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, to remind our nation that the American dream is not a reality.

Why Are We Still Fighting Over African-American Voting Rights 50 Years Later?

“I have a dream that my four little children will me day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character I have a dream . . . I have a dream that one day in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the wards of interposition and nullification, one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”
Dr. Martin Luther King — August 28, 1963

march-on-washington

On August 28th we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, where over 200,000 people gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial.   The event —  organized by labor organizations, faith leaders, and civil rights activists — became one of the most memorable moments in American history.

A commemoration held this past weekend drew tens of thousands to the Washington Mall; but there will be another celebration on Wednesday, featuring remarks by President Barack Obama.

The 1963 March on Washington was the culmination of activists pushing for equality for all, regardless of race.  The March is credited with being the catalyst for passing the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965).

“We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”  Dr. Martin Luther King — August 28, 1963

Some people, particularly jurists on the Supreme Court, are saying that discrimination does not exist anymore and there is no need for the Voting Rights Act.  I disagree.  The Voting Rights Act is needed just as much today as it was in 1965.

In states all around the country, the Republican Party has been attacking voters’ rights with ALEC-inspired laws like Voter ID.  So far 30 states have passed some type of Voter ID requirement in an effort to combat a non-existent voter fraud problem.  Anyone who does not have the type of photo ID required by these new laws is effectively losing their Constitutional right to vote.  According to the ACLU “11% of US citizens – or more than 21 million Americans — do not have government-issued photo identification.”

This directly affects the African-American community. “As many as 25% of African American citizens of voting age do not have a government-issued photo ID, compared to only 8% of their white counterparts.”

Over the last few months, North Carolina has been leading the charge to disenfranchise voters, specifically African-American voters.

More than 300,000 registered voters in North Carolina could lack either a driver’s license or a state ID, according to records from the State Board of Elections…. Most of them are poor African-Americans.”

They say these laws are somehow “needed” to stop voter fraud; but in the last 10 years there have been only two cases of voter fraud in North Carolina.  What is their real objective?  Former Secretary of State Colin Powell condemned North Carolina’s new Voter ID law by saying “that he believes the restrictions unfairly target minority voters and will ultimately hurt the Republican Party

Requiring citizens to show a valid photo ID is only one part of the GOP-led attack on voting rights.  The new Voter ID law cuts early voting from 17 days to 10.  They are also eliminating Sunday voting, when many churches encourage their congregations to vote after services.

North Carolina county election boards are now going after college voters.  Why? Because they tend to vote for Democratic candidates.

“The Watauga County Board of Elections voted Monday to eliminate an early voting site and election-day polling precinct on the campus of Appalachian State University.” (source)

Other counties in North Carolina are not being shy about their outright discrimination of African-American voters.

“The GOP chair of the Forsyth County Board of Elections is moving to shut down an early voting site at historically black Winston-Salem State University.” (source)

“The Pasquotank County Board of Elections on Tuesday barred an Elizabeth City State University senior (Montravias King) from running for city council, ruling his on-campus address couldn’t be used to establish local residency. Following the decision, the head of the county’s Republican Party said he plans to challenge the voter registrations of more students at the historically black university ahead of upcoming elections.” (source)

The election board is challenging King’s eligibility to run for city council all on the fact that he resides on campus and claims the dormitory as his domicile.  By challenging his eligibility to run for office, they are also simultaneously challenging a college students’ right to vote in the town they reside in – even though the US Supreme Court has ruled that college students have a Constitutionally-protected right to vote where they attend college.

If you think that the GOP plans to stop with Elizabeth City State University, you would be wrong.  The GOP (Pasquotank) county chairman Pete Gilbert told the Associated Press “I plan to take this show on the road.”

The GOP will not stop with North Carolina.  Texas is already moving forward on a new Voter ID that was originally rejected under the Voting Rights Act.  This prompted the Attorney General to sue the state of Texas over these changes.

“In the voter ID lawsuit, the U.S. government will contend that Texas adopted a voter identification law with the purpose of denying or restricting the right to vote on account of race, color or membership in a language minority group.” (source)

Texas is in the middle of a court battle over the GOP-led gerrymandering of legislative districts.  The claim is that the GOP redrew lines in four districts, segregating minority voters into a single district and allowing GOP to protect their majority in the other three.

After nearly fifty years of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, it is obvious that we have not yet achieved the dream that Dr. King laid out for us in 1963.  We have made great strides in equality; we have a dozen states that have enacted same-sex marriage laws.  Yet we still have yet to overcome the wage inequality between man and women, and whites and minorities.  We have come so far – yet, in recent years, it seems that we are moving backwards once again.  The good thing is that we have such great teachers like Dr. King to help remind us we can always do better.

Ruger: expansion plan depends on government $$ (not RTW restrictions)

Written by Matt Murray and Liz Iacobucci

Credit: Creative Commons/aflcio

Credit: Creative Commons/aflcio

 

Anyone who didn’t know better might actually believe the “spin” in Saturday’s Union Leader’s op-ed from Americans For Prosperity, the Koch-founded “dark money” group.  (Read more about AFP here.)

Did you happen to read AFP’s claims about Sturm Ruger’s expected new facility in North Carolina?  Those hypotheticals about whether or not Ruger’s siting decision was motivated by North Carolina’s Right To Work (for less) law?

Anyone who didn’t check the facts might actually believe it. 

First thing to be clear on:  Sturm Ruger hasn’t actually made a final decision to open the North Carolina plant.  Here’s the actual, latest word:

The deal still hinges on final approval of an unknown amount of state and local incentives.

Want to know what those “incentives” probably include?  North Carolina state law gives huge tax breaks to corporations who locate there.  “The State perpetuates its practice of meddling with the State’s economy to the detriment of free market principles and the robustness that brings.”  Some of those state-level incentives include:

  • a $12,500 tax credit for each job that is created;
  • a 30% tax credit for investing in real property; and
  • an additional 7% tax credit for investing in business property (such as manufacturing equipment and plant furnishings).

Add them up, and you get somewhere between $8.5 million and $17.25 million in state money (depending on whether you use Ruger’s estimate of new 500 jobs or AFP’s estimate of 1,200 jobs).

And that’s just the state-level incentives.  But wait, there’s more!  In North Carolina, “Rockingham County and the local municipalities review each new business location individually in order to offer a generous location assistance package.”

So, who knows how much Ruger might get paid to open a facility in North Carolina?  In last week’s conference call with industry analysts, the corporation did not disclose the total amount – just that “the deal hinges on final approval”.  (Not a single mention about Right to Work, by the way.)

And Ruger couldn’t expand their operations here, anyway – because there aren’t any buildings around that are big enough.  “At the moment, Claremont does not have an available building of 250,000 square feet, said Nancy Merrill, the city’s economic development coordinator. “We have a couple of buildings of about half that, like the Lowe’s building, which is about 130,000 square feet.”  (Back in May, Ruger’s CEO Michael Fifer told shareholders that “the company is looking for an existing 250,000-square-foot building, and Fifer said he hopes Texas Gov. Rick Perry will give it to him.”)

Again, that’s not in any way related to North Carolina’s Right to Work law.  If you happen to be checking facts, rather than swallowing AFP’s spinning lure.

What sort of jobs are we talking about, anyway?  Let’s look at the Ruger jobs that are already here in New Hampshire.  There are a bunch of jobs available, mostly paying between $10.00/hr and $13.50/hr.  (Maybe AFP Honorary Chairman Tom Thomson can pass the word along to all the Upper Valley people his op-ed says “would love to have an opportunity to have a high-skill, high-paying job that a manufacturer like Sturm, Ruger would” provide.  Thomson could tell them: Ruger has job openings: right here, right now.)

Ruger’s jobs simply don’t pay enough to keep a family afloat here in New Hampshire.   To pay for a two-bedroom apartment, and keep housing costs below 30% of their income, workers in New Hampshire need to be paid $20.47/hour. That’s a lot less than what they’re offering.

In North Carolina, housing costs are a lot cheaper.  In North Carolina, workers need to be paid only $14.17/hour in order to be able to afford a two-bedroom apartment.

But yes, that’s still more than what Ruger is offering, if you’re checking facts about those jobs that AFP describes as “high paying”.

Ruger can’t fill the jobs that it already has, here in New Hampshire.  So why did Saturday’s Union Leader op-ed try to make this situation all about Right to Work?

Straight from Ruger’s Annual Report:

“As of February 1, 2013, the Company employed approximately 1,460 full-time employees of which approximately 38% had at least ten years of service with the Company.  The Company uses temporary employees to supplement its workforce.   As of February 1, 2013, there were approximately 580 temporary employees.  None of the Company’s employees are subject to a collective bargaining agreement.”

Did you do the math?  More than one-quarter of their workforce is made up of temporary employees.

And Ruger isn’t even a union company – so why on earth would they care what restrictions state law places on companies’ negotiations with unions?

Think about it for a minute.  In reality, that’s what a Right to Work law is: a government restriction on how a company can do business.  Would Ruger really base its siting decision on the fact that North Carolina prohibits the corporation from doing something that New Hampshire allows?

No, this siting decision – which still hasn’t been finalized – is all about money.

Maybe Gov. Perry didn’t give them a building.  But North Carolina is going to give them $12,500 per job they create – plus an undisclosed amount of other incentives.

So maybe, at one level, this is a good example of the Right to Work dynamic.  Right to Work states tend to bid against each other for the honor of acquiring lower-paying, non-unionized jobs that often don’t have health insurance or pension benefits.  (Back in the 1990s, the Federal Reserve Bank advised that Congress should prohibit these kinds of bidding wars.)

Is this really the future that we want for New Hampshire?  Do we really want New Hampshire to follow North Carolina’s lead?  To be paying corporations $12,500+ per job, even for jobs that won’t support a family?

Why does the Union Leader think this is a good idea?

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