April 16, 2014

Unions under attack; we must respond

By Assistant President Arty Martin

While we go about our daily lives, political extremists are gaining strength and working non-stop to undermine and eliminate much of what we cherish on the job and look forward to in retirement.

It’s not just Wisconsin and Ohio where right-wing majorities voted to eliminate public-employee collective bargaining rights.

In 20 states, bills have been introduced to restrict or eliminate collective bargaining rights.

In 14 states, right-to-work (for less) bills have been introduced, allowing workers to refuse to pay union-representation dues while unions remain required to represent the workers refusing to pay dues.

Right-to-work (for less) legislation is an dastardly effort to strangle union finances and disrupt the ability of unions to engage in collective bargaining, fight for better safety laws and prosecute work-place grievances.

In existing right-to-work (for less) states, workers earn 3.2 percent less and are less likely to have employer-sponsored health insurance and pension benefits.

In Congress, three conservative senators — Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) — have introduced national right-to-work (for less) legislation that would similarly amend the National Labor Relations Act and the Railway Labor Act.

In seven states, bills have been introduced to eliminate laws requiring contractors on state-funded projects to pay prevailing wages. A university study of 10 states, where half of all highway and bridge work in the U.S. occurred, revealed higher-wage workers built 74 more miles of roadways and 33 more miles of bridges for a total cost of half-a-billion dollars less than was accomplished by workers earning less than the prevailing wage.

Bills have also been introduced in Congress to close the National Labor Relations Board, which enforces private-sector workers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively; and to reverse a National Mediation Board decision that determines airline and railroad union-representation elections based on those actually voting and not count those not voting as “no” votes.

Political extremists — in every state legislature and in Congress — has chosen organized labor as a target to be attacked, weakened and destroyed.

At risk is all organized labor has achieved for the middle class in America — the 40-hour work week, overtime pay, injured worker compensation, unemployment insurance, workplace health and safety protections, restrictions on discrimination in hiring, time off for family and medical emergencies, and restrictions on child labor.

Eliminating collective bargaining doesn’t solve budget deficits; it demoralizes the workforce.

Cutting wages doesn’t create jobs; it depresses economic activity. For every $1 million in wage reductions, six jobs are lost, according to a study by the AFL-CIO.

Busting unions doesn’t make the economy more competitive; it widens the gap between the rich and poor and undermines the foundation of the middle class, which is the engine of economic growth.

Unions establish wage rates and worker benefits that non-union employers follow to stay competitive.

The time has come for our membership to get mad about this attack on middle-class wages, benefits and workplace safety.

Our jobs, our workplace safety, our benefits and our families’ economic security are at stake.

Contributing to the UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund and the UTU PAC is how we coordinate an effective and successful response to the political extremists’ attack on organized labor.

In union there is strength, and when members of all labor unions engage in political solidarity, the result is millions of union members and their families working toward a common goal of electing more labor-friendly lawmakers

As President Futhey says, “We have drawn a line in the sand from which we cannot retreat. We can and will make a difference. We will not go away. We will not forget.”

Please observe what is happening in state legislatures and Congress. The attack is on you and your family. Participate in the UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund and the UTU PAC to the greatest extent you are able.

I will always encourage everyone to be passionate about their beliefs. But I also want our members to be more passionate about their jobs, because without our jobs, we would have no means to be passionate about the other things we want in life and for ourselves and for our families.

Be a proud part of labor solidarity to stop the attack on organized labor before we are destroyed and it is too late.