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Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, The Case To Push Right To Work Nationally

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

Another day, another attack on working families.

The Supreme Court is about to hear a case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association that could overturn a nearly forty-year decision that allows unions to negotiate “fair-share” fees for non-union members who benefit from the union’s contract.

“We are disappointed that at a time when big corporations and the wealthy few are rewriting the rules in their favor, knocking American families and our entire economy off-balance, the Supreme Court has chosen to take a case that threatens the fundamental promise of America—that if you work hard and play by the rules you should be able to provide for your family and live a decent life,” wrote NEA President Lily Eskelsen García, AFT President Randi Weingarten, CTA President Eric C. Heins, AFSCME President Lee Saunders, and SEIU President Mary Kay Henry in joint statement.

For decades corporations have been trying to bust our unions in an effort to suppress workers and pocket more of the fruits of our labor. Twenty-five states have already passed, so-called Right To Work laws, that make it illegal for unions and employers to negotiate a fair share clause’s in their contracts.

Nearly forty years ago the right for unions to charge a fair share fee was challenged in the Supreme Court. In the case, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the court upheld the union’s right to negotiate a fee from non-members who benefit from the contract.

For generations unions have protected workers and help to counterbalance the corporate race to the bottom. In free-bargaining states, workers on average, make $1553 dollars more annually.

“It’s abundantly clear that right to work laws are negatively correlated with workers’ wages,” said Elise Gould, Senior Economist with the Economic Policy Institute.

This case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, is just another example of the extreme right wing pushing their anti-worker agenda on all workers. The case has been pushed by the Center for Individual Rights with strong support from wealthy businessmen and ultra-libertarians Charles and David Koch.

“The list of foundations and donor-advised funds supporting the Center for Individual Rights reads like a who’s who of the right’s organized opposition to labor,” wrote Adele M. Stan in the American Prospect.

The Center for Individual Rights (CIR) is also known for taking cases to the Supreme Court to overturn rulings on Immigration, Affirmative Action, and the Voting Rights Act. CIR quickly gained support from anti-worker groups including “the Cato Institute, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Fund, and the Mackinac Center, a major force behind the 2012 anti-union legislation enacted in Michigan,” who filed amicus briefs to the Supreme Court on behalf of the plaintiff, Friedrichs.

The AFL-CIO and AFSCME also filed amicus briefs opposing this corporate funded attack on workers rights. Along with the AFL-CIO and AFSCME more than 70, civil and human rights groups, including the NAACP, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Women’s Law Center, and GLAD, filed their own amicus brief opposing this attack on workers.

“For nearly 40 years, unions have bargained to further opportunity for women, people of color, and LGBT workers,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “At a time of increasing inequality, and when the odds are increasingly in favor of the wealthy and against the American worker, we urge the Court to adhere to its own precedent and reaffirm Abood so that unions representing all public sector workers, both members and non-members, may continue to effectively bargain for vital workplace benefits and protections.”

When workers stand together, we win. These attacks on our rights and freedoms have not gone unnoticed and will not stop us from continuing to organize to make the lives of working people better.

Tide Turning in the War Against Middle Class Americans

LIUNA - The Laborers' International Union of North America

LIUNA – The Laborers’ International Union of North America

So-called Right to Work Blocked in Missouri

Washington, D.C. (September 17, 2015) – Terry O’Sullivan, General President of LIUNA – the Laborers’ International Union of North America – made the following statement today on the defeat of right-to-work in the Missouri legislature:

The vote against so-called right-to-work in the Missouri legislature is a victory for all American workers, and especially for the leaders and thousands of members of LIUNA in Missouri who rallied, wrote letters, and called their state representatives to stop this bill.

The victory, where even a Republican majority legislature failed to override the governor’s veto, signals that the attempts to undermine unions and lower wages and working conditions, can and will be blocked.

The tide is turning in the war against middle class Americans.

It is by having the freedom to join together in a union that construction workers build careers, earn family-supporting pay, and stay safer on the job. It is through unions that wage disparities are reduced or eliminated.

The Missouri legislators – both Republican and Democrat – who blocked so-called right-to-work should be commended for protecting those rights and dealing a setback to the tycoons whose vision for America is to reduce the working class to an underclass with fewer rights, fewer opportunities and dramatically increased income inequality.

 

The half-million members of LIUNA – the Laborers’ International Union of North America – are on the forefront of the construction industry, a powerhouse of workers who are proud to build America.

Granite State Legislators to Scott Walker: Good Luck. You’ll Need it.

Scott Walker 1 (Image by Gage Skidmore CC FLIKR)

CONCORD, N.H. – Today, several members of the New Hampshire state legislature penned an open letter to Gov. Scott Walker in advance of his trip to the Granite State. See below for full letter.

Dear Governor Scott Walker,

We wanted to welcome you to the First in the Nation Primary. You are a little late to the game, so we decided to help you out with some information about New Hampshire.

Last night, you said that raising the minimum wage was a “lame idea.” Lame idea? Really? Well, it’s an idea that 76% of Granite Staters support.

You should know that New Hampshire has no state minimum wage, which means we follow the federal minimum wage, which puts us at the bottom of any other state in New England. But it’s not for a lack of trying… or a lack of public support. People here don’t think the minimum wage is lame. They want it, and they want to raise the minimum wage so their families have more opportunities to succeed and achieve the American dream you talk so much about.

But frankly, your statement last night doesn’t shock us, given how you’ve favored the wealthy and corporations in Wisconsin.Time and time again, your budgets have favored the wealthy and corporations over working class families. In fact, your home-state newspapers have called out your budget the top earners in Wisconsin “would likely receive the majority of a $444 million proposed cut to tax rates and fees.” Even the Associated Press said that your proposed income tax cut “would give more money back to the rich,” despite your “billing it as a boon to the middle class.”

You’ve left working families in Wisconsin behind, and we don’t want you to do the same to our neighbors in New Hampshire. The fact is more than 100,000 workers in New Hampshire would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage. Nationally, more than half of all workers that would benefit from this increase are women. These are the same women who make less than their male counterparts, and who surely couldn’t count on you to fight for equal pay given your track record in Wisconsin.

So it seems we are at an impasse on this issue, Governor Walker. It is already obvious that your priorities don’t include helping everyday Granite Staters get ahead.

Good luck on the campaign trail. You’ll need it.

Sincerely,

Representative Michael Cahill, Newmarket

Senator Dan Feltes, Concord

Senator Andrew Hosmer, Laconia

Representative Doug Ley, Jaffrey

Senator Bette Lasky, Nashua

Senator Donna Soucy, Manchester

Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff, Penacook

Senator Jeff Woodburn, Dalton

Representative Andrew White, Lebanon

Unions Speak Out Against Supreme Court’s Decision To Hear Friedrichs v. CTA

Joint Statement on Public Service Workers
on Supreme Court Grant of Cert in Friedrichs v. CTA

Lawsuit Seeks to Curtail Freedom of Firefighters, Teachers, Nurses, First-Responders to Stick Together and Advocate for Better Public Services, Better Communities

WASHINGTON—NEA President Lily Eskelsen García, AFT President Randi Weingarten, CTA President Eric C. Heins, AFSCME President Lee Saunders, and SEIU President Mary Kay Henry issued the following joint statement today in response to U.S. Supreme Court granting cert to Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association:

“We are disappointed that at a time when big corporations and the wealthy few are rewriting the rules in their favor, knocking American families and our entire economy off-balance, the Supreme Court has chosen to take a case that threatens the fundamental promise of America—that if you work hard and play by the rules you should be able to provide for your family and live a decent life.

“The Supreme Court is revisiting decisions that have made it possible for people to stick together for a voice at work and in their communities—decisions that have stood for more than 35 years—and that have allowed people to work together for better public services and vibrant communities.

“When people come together in a union, they can help make sure that our communities have jobs that support our families. It means teachers can stand up for their students. First responders can push for critical equipment to protect us. And social workers can advocate effectively for children’s safety.

“America can’t build a strong future if people can’t come together to improve their work and their families’ futures. Moms and dads across the country have been standing up in the thousands to call for higher wages and unions. We hope the Supreme Court heeds their voices.”

And public servants are speaking out, too, about how Friedrichs v. CTA would undermine their ability to provide vital services the public depends on. In their own words:

“As a school campus monitor, my job is to be on the front lines to make sure our students are safe. Both parents and students count on me—it’s a responsibility that I take very seriously. It’s important for me to have the right to voice concerns over anything that might impede the safety of my students, and jeopardizing my ability to speak up for them is a risk for everyone.”
Carol Peek, a school campus security guard from Ventura, Calif.

“I love my students, and I want them to have everything they need to get a high-quality public education. When educators come together, we can speak with the district about class size, about adequate staffing, about the need for counselors, nurses, media specialists and librarians in schools. And we can advocate for better practices that serve our kids. With that collective voice, we can have conversations with the district that we probably wouldn’t be able to have otherwise―and do it while engaging our communities, our parents and our students.”
Kimberly Colbert, a classroom teacher from St. Paul, Minn.

“As a mental health worker, my colleagues and I see clients who are getting younger and more physical. Every day we do our best work to serve them and keep them safe, but the risk of injury and attack is a sad, scary reality of the job. But if my coworkers and I come together and have a collective voice on the job, we can advocate for better patient care, better training and equipment, and safe staffing levels. This is about all of us. We all deserve safety and dignity on the job, because we work incredibly hard every day and it’s certainly not glamorous.”
Kelly Druskis-Abreu, a mental health worker from Worcester, Mass.

“Our number one job is to protect at-risk children. Working together, front-line social workers and investigators have raised standards and improved policies that keep kids safe from abuse and neglect. I can’t understand why the Supreme Court would consider a case that could make it harder for us to advocate for the children and families we serve—this work is just too important.”
Ethel Everett, a child protection worker from Springfield, Mass.

 


About the National Education Association
The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing nearly 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers. Learn more at www.nea.org and follow on Twitter at @NEAmedia.

About the American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
The American Federation of Teachers, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, was founded in 1916 and today represents 1.6 million members in more than 3,000 local affiliates nationwide. AFT represents pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; and nurses and other healthcare professionals. Go online to www.aft.orgor @AFTunion to find out more.

About the California Teachers Association (CTA)
The 325,000-member California Teachers Association is affiliated with the 3 million-member National Education Association. Find out more at www.cta.org and follow CTA on Twitter at @CATeachersAssoc.

About the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
AFSCME is the nation’s largest and fastest growing public service employees union with more than 1.6 million working and retired members. AFSCME’s members provide the vital services that make America happen. We are nurses, corrections officers, child care providers, EMTs, sanitation workers and more. Read more online at www.afscme.org and @AFSCME.

About the Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) unites 2 million diverse members in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. The nation’s largest health care union, SEIU represents nurses, LPNs, doctors, lab technicians, nursing home workers, and home care workers in addition to building cleaning and security industries, including janitors, security officers, superintendents, maintenance workers, window cleaners, and doormen and women. SEIU also represents public workers including local and state government workers, public school employees, bus drivers, and child care providers. Learn more at www.seiu.org and @SEIU.


 

AFT-NH Red Alert: Right To Work Is Back!

YES, THAT IS CORRECT; THE SO CALL RIGHT TO WORK IS BACK! 

The full Senate will be voting on a version of the bill this coming Thursday, April 30th. The Senate Finance Committee recommended ‘Ought to Pass” on HB 658-FN, prohibiting collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join a labor union. This bill comes from Wisconsin and Scott Walker’s play book.  It excludes Police Officers and Firefighters.   I think the statement by Representative Doug Ley sums it all up: “…Furthermore, the decision to carve out exceptions for police officers and firefighters was justified on grounds of the need for unit cohesion. That same logic can apply to any workplace including those where employers and labor organizations agree to allow the union to recover the costs of negotiating for and defending non-union employees. Such interference in the freedom to contract is unacceptable to the minority [Democrats on House Labor Committee].

Over the past two years hundreds of NH citizens voiced opposition to this bill with only a handful of people speaking in support. This attack on working people like you is led by out-of-state interests such as the National Right to Work Committee and ALEC. Don’t let the voice of NH residents to be silenced.

Pass the word to friends and family members. Your Senator needs to hear from you. Simply put, this is a union-busting bill and an attack on our public employees and middle class families.

Please share this with colleagues so they know the seriousness of these attacks. So let’s GET ACTIVE and let these state Senators hear our voices.

Your immediate action will send a strong message to your Senator.

Thank you.

In Solidarity,

Laura Hainey

What Is A “Fair Share Agreement” And Why Should I Pay It?

It is time to set the record straight as to what exactly “Fair Share” provisions are in union contracts. 

We have all heard it, we must pass Right To Work legislation to give workers freedom or some BS like that.  Many of them talk about “knowing a guy” who is forced to union dues even though he is not part of the union.  This story has been around for decades, and though it is already illegal to force someone to pay union dues, they continue to spread this lie as they push for these so-called Right To Work laws.

The fact is that many contracts, especially in the public sector, respect the rights of the worker and their choice to join, or not join, the union and have a negotiated agreement with the employer for what is know as a “fair share” agreement.   To people who many not be covered by a collective bargaining agreement in their workplace, this is a clause that basically means that if you benefit from the contract, ie work her under this agreement, then you must pay a fee to cover the costs of negotiating and administering the contract.  That is it.

Check out this amazing and funny video from AFSCME who explains “fair share” agreements in their own way.

The fact is we need more workplaces covered by union contracts.  Workers who are members of a union make hundreds of dollars a month more in take home pay, typically have healthcare and retirement options, and most importantly have a voice in their workplace.  They have protections from employers who would fire you for looking at them sideways.  The union continues to fight for you, the worker, when you become sick or injured on the job.  The fight for safer workplaces with better personal protection equipment and safety protocols.

I am proud to be a union member, and personally I cannot think of any good reason why you would not want to be in a union.  That being said, some people still choose not to be full union members but want the benefits that union representation provides.  This is why we have fair share agreements.  It is a way for those who do not want to pay union dues, to only pay for the administration of the collective bargaining agreement that covers them.

Being covered by a collective bargaining agreement will mean better pay, better benefits, and retirement security.  All things that every worker wants, but not every worker gets.

Senator Rand Paul Has No Idea Why The USPS Appears To Be Failing, But He Blames Unions

RAND PAUL (Stump Source FLIKR CC)

RAND PAUL (Stump Source FLIKR CC)

With much fanfare Rand Paul has officially kicked off his Stand with Rand presidential campaign.  He is arguably the most anti-worker candidate on the American political landscape.

Paul never strays from being a front man for the wealthy with his extreme anti-union beliefs. For Postal workers his message is clear as he advocates an  end to collective bargaining rights for postal workers when their current contracts expire.  He says he is not “opposed to all unions” he just believes unions are inappropriate for public service workers.

For other union workers, his thoughts are just as clear as he proudly introduced a National Right to Work Bill in the Senate. The National Right to Work Committee has given Paul $20,000 already this election cycle, which is 57% of all the money it has handed out to all other politicians combined.  So you can easily say that Rand Paul has essentially become the national spokesman for Right to Work. This kind of belies his “man of the people” messaging.

When speaking on Postal Reform a month ago in Florida he blasted the Postal Service:
“There are two sectors in the economy. The productive sector: you. And the non-productive sector: the people who live in Washington. They don’t make anything. They can’t even run the post office. They say we are going to project our power and we create new nations around the world.  We can’t run our own post office. They came to me last year on my committee and you know what they said, ‘we need bonuses for people at the post office.’ They said ‘you’ve got to pay people to retain talent. To get talented people you’ve got to pay them.’ I said ‘how much talent does it take to lose a billion dollars a quarter.’” I am not quite sure that Postal Bonuses were a major topic in the postal reform mark up. I am quite sure that postal  union workers do not receive any bonuses. Plus the USPS has turned an operational profit over the last few years.

(Michael Vadon - Carroll County Republican Committee Annual Lincoln Day Dinner with U.S. Senator Rand Paul - FLIKR CC)

(Michael Vadon
– Carroll County Republican Committee Annual Lincoln Day Dinner with U.S. Senator Rand Paul – FLIKR CC)

“So something has to change, but everybody opposes any changes that would allow the Post Office to make decisions like a business. Maybe if they were to have bankruptcy and renegotiate all of their labor contracts, they would have a chance. But there’s too many strong political, partisan voices up here to let that happen.  So I don’t know what the answer is. Privatization would be great but how we go about doing that is another story.”

Senator Paul’s main contribution to the Postal Reform hearings before his committee were not exactly constructive. He immediately proposed an amendment calling on the Postal Service to declare bankruptcy and reorganize. In the senator’s vision of reorganization, collective-bargaining agreements between USPS and its employee unions would be renegotiated, while existing no-layoff protections and the ability to bargain over wages would be banned.

Paul then tied up the committee with a lengthy barrage of questions about his failed amendment to “remove a federal ban on guns in the post offices.”  This prevented substantial debate on the problems with retiree pre-funding obligations that his Congress placed on the USPS. Senator Paul’s Postal Reform boils down to eliminating workers rights and enhancing gun owners’ rights in the post office. That is not Postal Reform, that’s Postal Destruction.

The real issue behind the Postal Service’s red ink is the  2006 Congressional mandate that the Postal Service fully fund 75 years of retiree health care costs in a 10 year period. This onerous mandate costs the USPS $5.5 Billion a year and is the only reason that the Postal Service doesn’t show a profit on its balance sheet. Even more outrageous is the fact that this payment is unnecessary as the USPS retiree fund has more than enough money for decades into the future. The hard-working union workers of the Postal Service are on their 3rd straight year of an operational profit.  It’s been an extraordinary turnaround that Paul fails to mention.

Rand Paul has some serious misconceptions not only about the productivity of  union workers but also their retirement and health care plans. ” Federal employees have almost double the compensation that private employees have. […] Maybe these government unions are going to have to contribute to their pension, maybe they’re going to have to pay something for their health care, like I’m having to pay, so when I hear regular taxpayers in Kentucky they don’t have a lot of sympathy because they’re paying high insurance premiums and they have to pay for their own retirements. “

(Video link)

He couldn’t be more misinformed. Public workers at all level of government have to contribute to their pension and health care plans. Federal employees contribute to the Federal Employment Retirement System (FERS), which requires them to contribute to the fund at a rate equivalent to one percent of their yearly salary. Also Federal workers participate in the Federal Group Health Care system where they buy their healthcare.  For some Postal Workers (CCAs and  PSEs) the price for health care almost make it unattainable while joining a retirement plan is not fiscally possible. The Postal Service does not contribute anything to their retirement plans. Paul had to know he was completely misrepresenting the facts, but that didn’t stop him. His overall dislike of public sector unions make any exaggeration of the facts acceptable, it seems.

Demonizing federal union workers is a Republican staple since Ronald Reagan fired Air Traffic Controllers. There is a profit to be made by decimating the Postal Service both politically and financially.  It’s no surprise that UPS and FedEx are among the top 10 contributors to his leadership PAC. With Paul it’s simple: you just follow the money. Whether it’s degrading public union workers or being the lead advocate for bills against private sector workers, it’s clear whose side Rand Paul stands with. His close ties with anti-union groups show his true allegiance.  He will offer an occasional  populist message on foreign policy or the war on drugs in an effort to disguise the fact that when it comes to economic issues he is firmly against working people.

Paul is the latest in the line of snake oil salesman running for President who under the guise of free markets/privatization, who want to further enrich the ultra-wealthy on the backs of  middle class workers.  The ultra-wealthy supporters of Paul never vote against their economic self-interest. Notice the record-breaking income inequality as proof. In spite of that Rand Paul is running for president hoping to fool working people in to voting against their economic well-being.  His Stand with Rand movement is clearly standing on the backs of union people.

Paul believes ordinary people should just be slaves for the rich and be thankful for it. He expounds on this in the video below.  For working people a more  accurate slogan describing their economic outlook under a President Rand Paul would be Fall With Paul.

GOP Led Legislatures And ALEC Are Working To Do Away With Unions

Right To Work in Wisconsin (FLIKR CC Blue Chedder)

Image by Blue Chedder

Dr. Thomas J. Mackell, Jr.

Dr. Thomas J. Mackell, Jr.

By Thomas J. Mackell, Jr., Ed.D.
Special Advisor to the President 
International Longshoremen’s Association, AFL-CIO

The move to alter the laws to make all states a Right to Work state is gaining momentum. State legislatures overloaded with conservative elected officials who have strong ties to the innocuously named American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) are hell-bent on doing away with unions.

Recent successful legislative initiatives in Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin to enact Right to Work laws was humiliating to workers and their unions and, in the long run, will contribute dramatically to the suffering of workers and their families and there are another half-dozen states actually considering it.

The protagonists behind these campaigns emphasize that this trend bolsters individual rights. This is yet another example of symbol manipulation where words are supposed to provide comfort. This trend and the individual rights claim couldn’t be further from the truth.

It is hard to believe that there is an entire cadre of folks who are cheering on the sidelines and praising these accomplishments.

It is particularly egregious when the industrial history of these states was that they were strong, progressive fortresses for workers and their unions in their fight for economic justice.

The Holocaust survivor and great humanitarian Elie Wiesel once said: “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides.”

We should takes sides. However, there is a very strong and not so silent group of folks spearheaded by the billionaire Koch brothers who are the driving force with mega-bucks behind the campaign to change the United States in a very significant and destructive way.

Look at what campaigns they have initiated over the last couple of years since the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the Citizens United lawsuit resulting in a whole new political fundraising initiate that will destroy this nation as we know it.  Their plan includes the following:

  • Create the Tea Party which is now on a roll
  • Buy the Republican Party
  • Arm the Tea Party
  • Turn each against all
  • Buy teachers to indoctrinate students in the Koch philosophy
  • Destroy the U.S. Postal Service
  • Alter the benefit programs for our war-torn veterans
  • Deport all illegal immigrants
  • Destroy Obamacare
  • Offer no minimum wage increases
  • Destroy Social Security
  • Reject new tax increases for the rich
  • Destroy Medicare and Medicaid
  • Support Right to Work legislation
  • Erase the Dodd-Frank regulations on financial institutions
  • Eradicate all Defined Benefit Pension Plans
  • Destroy unions
  • Fight global warming
  • Grind down all workers
  • Emasculate women’s rights
  • Purchase some Governors
  • Purchase Congress
  • Buy the Senate
  • Destroy the legacy of FDR
  • Annihilate the social welfare state
  • Take away the right to vote and End Democracy
  • Erode the American Dream

That is a pretty bold and frightening “to do list.”

We must fight this with all of our fibre. Life as we know will no longer exist. Society will be left with only the Princes and the Paupers.

Since we cannot match their capital strength, we have to be more creative and activistic in our initiatives.

Many international unions are committed to withholding political contributions from those who will support and vote for Fast Track, the new proposed trade deal. This is but one initiative.

The support for workers in this country by elected officials is fading. They have been purchased by the right wing billionaires.

We have to go well beyond political contributions and appeal to the peoples’ sense of justice and equity and their economic well-being.

In a recent quote by D. Taylor, International President of UNITE HERE union he said:

“Politics are important, but I think the most important thing is organizing workers and mobilizing workers. Mobilizing workers we represent, as well as those we don’t represent— because they’re both getting screwed.”

It is time for action. All of the groups that fight for social and economic justice must band together to fight the 1% and take up the fight to mobilize and protect what unions have won for workers over the last century. Our economic lives depend on it.

Take up the fight!

Rand Wilson SEIU 888: A Smart Strategy to Defeat ‘Right to Work’

Without aggressive action, the right-to-work tsunami will sweep more states. "Just Cause for All" campaigns should be part of the strategy. Photo: Glenn Schmidt.

 Photo: Glenn Schmidt.

By Rand Wilson

Without aggressive action, the right-to-work tsunami will sweep more states.
“Just Cause for All” campaigns should be part of the strategy.

Wisconsin is now the 25th state to adopt a so-called “right-to-work” law, which allows workers to benefit from collective bargaining without having to pay for it.

It joins Michigan and Indiana, which both adopted right to work in 2012. Similar initiatives, or variants, are spreading to Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and West Virginia—and the National Right to Work Committee and the American Legislative Exchange Council probably have a well-developed list of additional targets.

Without aggressive action, the right-to-work tsunami will sweep more states. To defeat it, the first step is committing to fight back, rather than resigning ourselves to what some say is inevitable.

Everyone’s Interests

Rand Wilson speaking at Local 888 convention 2014

Rand Wilson speaking at Local 888 convention 2014

We’ll have to go beyond what we’ve mostly been saying so far, which is that right to work is “unfair” or “wrong.”

That argument certainly works for most union households and many of our community allies. But the real challenge is to convince a much broader public that a strong (and fairly-funded) labor movement is in their interest and worth preserving. Clearly most Americans aren’t yet convinced.

Many unions over the last few years have undertaken important campaigns along these lines. For example, teachers unions have positioned themselves as defenders of quality public education. Refinery workers have struck for public safety.

Nurses and health care unions have fought for safe staffing to improve the quality of care. And most notably, the Service Employees (SEIU) and others have waged the “Fight for $15” for fast food and other low-wage workers.

In its own way, each union is working hard to be a champion of the entire working class. Yet with the exception of SEIU’s Fight for $15, each is essentially focused on the issues of its core constituency at work. This still limits the public’s perception of labor.

Supporters of right to work cynically play on the resentment many workers feel about their declining standard of living. Absent a union contract, the vast majority have few, if any, ways to address it. To most, organizing looks impossible and politics looks broken.

Workers’ understandable frustration is fertile ground for the far right, which promises to improve the business climate and create more jobs by stripping union members of their power.

Thus, when we anticipate right to work’s next targets, the best defense should be a good offense—one that clearly positions labor as a force for the good of all workers.

‘Just Cause for All’

Here’s one approach that would put labor on the offensive: an initiative for a new law providing all workers with due process rights to challenge unjust discipline and discharge, “Just Cause for All.”

Such a law would take aim at the “at-will” employment standard covering most non-union workers in the U.S. At-will employees can be fired for any reason and at any time—without just cause.

While such a major expansion of workers’ rights as Just Cause for All would be unlikely to pass in most state legislatures—Montana did it in 1987, but it’s still the only one—it could become law in states that allow ballot initiatives.

A well-orchestrated attack on the at-will employment standard would force the extreme, anti-worker, and big business interests who back right to work to respond. If nothing else, imagine how competing initiatives would force a debate. On one side, extending due process protections and increased job security to all workers: a real right-to-work bill. On the other side, taking away fair share contributions for collective bargaining.

This strategy isn’t untested. When the Coors beer dynasty backed a right-to-work ballot initiative in Colorado in 2008, labor collected signatures for a counter-initiative, “Allowable Reasons for Employee Discharge or Suspension,” which would have overturned at-will employment. (Labor also supported a proposal that would have provided affordable health insurance to all employees and a measure to allow workers injured on the job to sue for damages in state courts.)

Fearing that the just cause proposal might pass, centrist business people offered a deal. In exchange for labor withdrawing its proposal, they provided financial support and manpower that helped labor defeat right to work in Colorado. (For more on this story, read “The 2008 Defeat of Right to Work in Colorado: Is it the End of Section 14(b)?” Raymond L. Hogler, Labor Law Journal, Spring 2009.)

While it’s unfortunate that the labor initiative didn’t go before Colorado voters, the result was still encouraging—and instructive. By championing the interests of all workers, labor split business and blunted the right-to-work effort.

To win back “fair-share” participation in the three new right-to-work states and stop further attacks, we’ll need well-planned campaigns that include grassroots mobilization, direct action, paid and earned media, and focused electoral work.

Just Cause for All campaigns should be part of the strategy. Even if we lose, campaigns for due process and job security for all will help shift the debate on right to work, leave the labor movement stronger—and make labor and its allies once again the champions of the “99%.”

Rand Wilson is policy and communications director at SEIU Local 888 in Boston.

This story was also published on LaborNotes.

AFT-NH Legislative Update 3-18-15: Charter Schools and Right To Work

It was a very busy two days at the State House. The full House needed to act on 245 bills. Two bills of interest were the so called right to work for less bills. The first was HB 658: prohibiting collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join a labor. Like all the other right to work bills this would do nothing to create jobs, improve the economy or guarantee a job for anyone. Unlike the Senate the House passed this bill by a vote of 149 to 146, just 3 votes from a tie.

The other right to work bill was pulled from the Consent calendar by none other than Representative O’Brien. Of course he and his followers got up and spoke on how wonderful this bill is and how if it were passed, jobs and prosperity would shower down on New Hampshire.  Not true, and it failed, by a vote of 184 to 79.

On a positive note both the following bills passed the House and will move over to the Senate, where AFT-NH will continue to support and advocate for their passage.  HB 491:  relative to immunity for school personnel using reasonable force to protect a minor, would permit a teacher or other person entrusted with the care or supervision of a minor or pupil to use reasonable force to end a disturbance, to maintain safety, or to remove the pupil or minor from the premises under certain circumstances.   HB 507:  relative to teacher personally identifiable data was the second bill passed by the House and will now move to the Senate. This bill adds provisions relating to the protection of a teacher’s personally identifiable data and adds in language that no school shall record in any way a school classroom for any purpose without school board approval after a public hearing, and without written consent of the teacher and the parent or legal guardian of each affected student.

However HB 563-FN, relative to funding for chartered public school pupils passed with an amendment by a vote of 222 to 116.  AFT-NH has serious concerns with this bill and will advocate that it be defeated in the Senate.

The next few weeks the House will be working on their budget and it is becoming clear that Republicans are pushing for many cuts to critical programs in our state. What is equally disturbing is that both chambers have been passing bills that would decrease the revenues received by the State.

In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey
AFT-NH President

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Upcoming hearings for the week of March 15, 2015

Wednesday, March 18

PUBLIC AND MUNICIPAL AFFAIRS, Room 102, LOB
Sen. Birdsell (C), Sen. Boutin (VC), Sen. Stiles, Sen. Lasky, Sen. Kelly
10:30 a.m. SB 242-L, relative to amending the budget in towns that have adopted official ballot voting.

FINANCE, Rooms 210-211, LOB
9:00 a.m. Executive session on HB 215-FN, relative to school building aid grant payments,

HB 562-FN-L, repealing the limitation on the total education grant distributed to a municipality in a fiscal year and reducing the stabilization grants to certain municipalities, and

HB 577-FN-A-L, establishing a children’s savings account program.

FINANCE – (DIVISION I), Room 212, LOB
1:00 p.m. or immediately following full committee executive session. Work session on HB 1-A, making appropriations for the expenses of certain departments of the state for fiscal years ending June 30, 2016 and June 30, 2017, and

HB 2-FN-A-L, relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures.
*Please note time change

FINANCE – (DIVISION III), Rooms 210-211, LOB
1:00 p.m. or immediately following full committee executive session. Work session and final decision on
HB 1-A, making appropriations for the expenses of certain departments of the state for fiscal years ending June 30, 2016 and June 30, 2017, and

HB 2-FN-A-L, relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures.

Thursday, March 19

10 am Senate in Session

FINANCE – (DIVISION I), Room 212, LOB
9:30 a.m. Work session on HB 1-A, making appropriations for the expenses of certain departments of the state for fiscal years ending June 30, 2016 and June 30, 2017, and

HB 2-FN-A-L, relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures.

FINANCE – (DIVISION III), Rooms 210-211, LOB
9:00 a.m. Work session and final decisions on HB 1-A, making appropriations for the expenses of certain departments of the state for fiscal years ending June 30, 2016 and June 30, 2017, and

HB 2-FN-A-L, relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures.

Friday, March 20

FINANCE – (DIVISION III), Rooms 210-211, LOB
9:00 a.m. Work session and final decisions on HB 1-A, making appropriations for the expenses of certain departments of the state for fiscal years ending June 30, 2016 and June 30, 2017, and

HB2-FN-A-L, relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures.

Tuesday, March 24

FINANCE, Room 210-211, LOB
9:00 a.m. Executive session on HB 1-A, making appropriations for the expenses of certain departments of the state for fiscal years ending June 30, 2016 and June 30, 2017, and

HB 2-FN-A-L, relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures.

Monday, March 30

10:00 a.m. The Finance Committee will hold budget briefings on HB 1-A, making appropriations for the
expenses of certain departments of the state for fiscal years ending June 30, 2016 and June 30, 2017
and HB 2-FN-A-L, relative to state fees, funds, revenues, and expenditures in Representatives Hall

Friday, April 3

FISCAL COMMITTEE (RSA 14:30-a), Rooms 210-211, LOB
9:00 a.m. Regular meeting.

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