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 After Maine lawmakers passed “Right to Work” in 1947, voters repealed the law by a two-to-one majority.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 Ohio lawmakers ignored the 1958 ballot results and passed “Right to Work” in 2011; and voters repealed the law by an overwhelming margin.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 In both New Hampshire and Delaware, state legislatures adopted “Right to Work” in 1947 – and then repealed it in 1949. Louisiana’s legislature passed “Right to Work” in 1954 and repealed it in 1956 (and then passed it again in 1976). Indiana passed “Right to Work” in 1957 and repealed it in 1965 (and then passed it again in 2012).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

A Conservative’s Guide to the “Right to Work” Bill

He didn’t talk much about it during his campaign, but apparently the so-called “Right to Work” bill is a top priority of incoming NH Governor Chris Sununu.  The Senate will hold a hearing on his bill this Tuesday – January 10, 2017 – starting at 1:00 pm in the State House, Representatives’ Hall.

Let’s start with the name: “Right to Work”

Do you take citizens’ rights seriously? Then you avoid political rhetoric that would create new “rights.”  Conservatives reject talk about “the right to health care” or “the right to housing” because those “rights” aren’t enumerated in the Constitution.  Neither is “the right to work.”

Yes, the name makes it easy to sell to the public.  Here’s how the Alabama Media Group described Amendment 8: “It also provides you with a plain-spoken, air-tight constitutional right to hold a job and earn a living for yourself and your loved ones.”

Think about that.  “An air-tight, constitutional right to hold a job.”  In a state where four counties have unemployment rates of 10% or more.  What’s going to happen when all those unemployed Alabama citizens want government to deliver on their “right to work”?

SB 11 doesn’t give Granite Staters “the right to work.”  Pretending that it does – just to get the bill passed – dishonors the citizens’ rights that our country was founded on.

Look at what the bill actually does.

“Right to Work” legislation prohibits businesses from negotiating “fair share” provisions into their employment contracts.  Dress the bill up with any title you want – that’s still what it does.  It adds a new layer of government regulation between businesses and their employees.

Under the law right now, employers that want “fair share” provisions in their contracts are allowed to have them.  Remember last time around, when employers testified against this bill?

Employers that don’t want “fair share” provisions don’t have to have them.   The choice is entirely up to the particular employer.

“Right to Work” legislation takes away the employer’s right to make that choice – and substitutes the government’s judgment, instead.

That’s government overreach – not a conservative value.

It restricts employers’ rights to set conditions of employment.

The “Right to Work” bill also creates a troubling legal precedent, by restricting employers’ ability to set terms and conditions of employment.

Under the law right now, employers can require their employees to make “fair share” payments as a condition of employment.  Again, this is entirely the employer’s choice – not the government’s.  (At least, right now it is.)

Right now, employers can require their employees to do all sorts of things as a condition of employment.  Employees can be required to contribute to health insurance costs, or to contribute to a company’s pension plan.  Employees can be required to be members of a particular professional association; or, they can be fired if they join certain organizations the employer doesn’t want to be affiliated with.

But “Right to Work” is a camel’s nose.  If New Hampshire starts down this path, where is it going to stop?  If this Legislature prohibits employers from requiring employees to pay “fair share” contributions, what keeps future Legislatures from prohibiting employee contributions for health insurance?

“Right to Work” encroaches on employers’ rights – and conservatives know: that’s wrong.

It’s probably unconstitutional.

Unions have to represent all employees in the bargaining unit – whether those employees are members of the union, or not.  Right now, unions have the ability – if employers agree – to negotiate contracts with “fair share” provisions so that all employees pay the cost of providing representation.  “Right to Work” takes that possibility away.

Under “Right to Work,” unions are required to provide representation, without being allowed to charge for it.  That’s like lawyers being required to provide legal representation, but leaving it up to their clients to decide whether or not to voluntarily pay for it.  It raises all sorts of Fifth Amendment issues that the Courts are just starting to consider.

Government requiring a private entity to provide its product or services for free goes against everything conservatives believe.  It’s just plain wrong.

It’s a classic example of “government by special interests”

Remember Kevin Landrigan’s expose of political contributions by the National Right to Work Committee?

Maybe it shouldn’t surprise us that this is suddenly Gov. Sununu’s top priority, even though it wasn’t a big campaign issue.

“Right to Work” is a priority for Virginia-based Americans for Prosperity, which is quietly pushing aside the GOP.  In Kentucky, AFP “made over 473,000 phone calls and knocked on over 45,000 doors” in support of state legislative candidates – and the newly-elected Kentucky legislators rewarded that support by immediately passing “Right to Work” last Saturday.

How much support did AFP give to the Sununu campaign?  There’s no way to tell – it’s not registered with the state either as a political party or a political advocacy organization, and at the federal level it is registered as a 501(c)4 “social welfare” organization, so it doesn’t regularly disclose how it spends money or who its donors are.

Without knowing how much support AFP gave to the Sununu campaign, there’s no way to tell how much he thinks he owes them.

But what we do know is that during this election, AFP spent money opposing about a dozen NH Republicans, including Hampstead Rep. Joseph Guthrie, Manchester Rep. Mark Proulx, Salem Rep. Fred Doucette and Sanbornton Rep. Dennis Fields.

It’s not a New Hampshire priority.

“Right to Work” has been considered – and rejected – by the New Hampshire legislature for the past three decades.  Last time around:

  • Our Labor Commissioner testified that he had spoken to about 2,000 business owners during his six years in office – and not one of them suggested the state should adopt “Right to Work.”
  • Our Resources and Economic Development Commissioner said he had met with thousands of businesses over the years – and not once had “Right to Work” ever come up in his discussions, either with current NH businesses or with companies considering moving here.
  • Even the Governor said “In the last seven years of recruiting businesses to move to New Hampshire, not one business leader has ever asked me if New Hampshire had a right-to-work law, let alone suggested it was a factor in the company’s location decision…The debate over the so-called right-to-work bill in New Hampshire appears to be largely driven by national outside interest groups, and is not a result of problems facing New Hampshire businesses or workers.”

It’s not a New Hampshire priority.  So why is it first-out-of-the-box for our brand-new Governor and Legislature?  Is it because of AFP “investment” in our state campaigns?

Do Granite Staters really want a government that puts AFP’s priorities first??

We’ve already repealed it once.

Sherman Adams
NH Governor 1949 – 1953
Chief of Staff to President Dwight Eisenhower 1953 – 1958

New Hampshire adopted a “Right to Work” bill back in 1947.

But it didn’t last long; it was repealed in 1949 by a Republican-led Legislature and a Republican Governor.

Have New Hampshire’s conservative values really changed that much since then?



InZane Times: Democracy or Oligarchy, Which is It?


P4070011If the “central characteristic of democracy is responsiveness of government to the interests of citizens,” as Martin Gilens says,  then ours if failing miserably.

Professor Gilens, prime author of a much-cited article showing that the US government responds to the interests of wealthy individuals and corporate lobbies, not to ordinary people, presented his findings tonight at Plymouth State University.

Gilens, a professor of political science at Princeton, analyzed responses to 1779 survey questions collected from 1981 to 2002 to test whose opinions mattered.  With his co-author, Benjamin Page, Gilens examined the views of average citizens, defined as those at median levels of income, the views of wealthy individuals, and the positions held by the most powerful interest groups (“Most of them are business oriented,” he said.).  Then they looked at the outcomes of policy debates.

https://i0.wp.com/cdn2.vox-cdn.com/assets/4315381/Gilens1.pngWhat they found is that the preferences of ordinary people have virtually no impact on policy.  The opinions of wealthy individuals and organized interest groups, however, have a considerable effect. 

“People with resources call the shots and ordinary citizens are bystanders,” he said. 

It’s not a matter of political parties and which one is in power.  If one looks at issues such as trade policy, tax cuts, or financial de-regulation, politicians of both major parties have enacted policies favored by elites.  “Priorities the public expressed are not the priorities of our government,” Gilens said.


Gilens’ research was reported in “Testing Theories of American Politics:  Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens,” published in 2014 in Perspectives on American Politics.   Frequently referred to as “the Princeton study,” the Gilens and Page paper has been used to state the USA is now an oligarchy. 

Not so fast, Gilens says.  Yes, it’s true that ordinary people are largely ignored and that high percentages of the rising amounts of cash flooding the political system come from a relatively small collection of wealthy individuals.  And it’s also true that running and winning elections demands ever larger campaign funds.   But Gilens  holds onto hope that a movement like the early 20th century progressives can rise up to challenge the policies of the New Gilded Age.   

“No single reform” will do it, Gilens believes.  But campaign finance reform, lobbying reform, electoral reform, and the rise of civil society and labor groups just might stop the trend toward oligarchy.  That will be “a decades long task,” he says.

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