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Indiana

[ 62 ] January 11, 2012 |

So now that everyone is through with Clown Show 2: We Drop Our r’s Edition, maybe we can get to a story that actually matters.* And I don’t mean Clown Show 3: Confederate Homeland Edition. Instead, maybe we should shift our attention to the Hoosier State, where Governor Mitch Daniels** and the Republican legislature is trying to eviscerate Indiana’s unions by passing a right to work for poverty wages law.

To be precise, what a “right to work” law does is makes it legal for individuals in unionized workplaces to choose to opt out of the union, not paying any dues. But the union is still legally required to provide these non-members full representation. It’s a leech law, allowing workers to suck the blood of union members. It also weakens unions by forcing them to provide services without the resources of union dues.

The minority Democrats are doing everything they can to stop this atrocious law from passing. Both sides are using the example of Oklahoma, the last state to pass a right to work law, in 2001. Oklahoma business has talked up how much the law has helped them, but the Oklahoma economy has not exactly boomed. What it has done is undermine unions, which is pretty much all the plutocrats care about here. What about workers? Didn’t making Oklahoma “business-friendly” bring in the jobs?

“There is no doubt that the law has resulted in job loss and lower wages,” said Jesse Isbell, who worked for 36 years at the Bridgestone-Firestone tire plant in Oklahoma City.

That plant closed in 2006, and he and 1,400 others lost their jobs, he said, even though proponents had said the legislation was what was needed to keep jobs from leaving the state.

“Those jobs went to Mexico and they’re not coming back.”

He blamed that in part on the “right to work” law, saying it led to hard feelings and bad morale.

“The instance of free-loaders using union resources to fight discharge and company discipline created a hostile work environment,” Isbell said. “It affected productivity, profitability and the quality of the operations at our plant.”

He and Kitti Asberry, another United Auto Workers member who lost her General Motors job when the Oklahoma plant closed there in 2005, said jobs coming in have not replaced those lost, and that the wages and benefits are lower.

Ah.

Will Democrats succeed in beating back this law? I tend to doubt it, though there is significant pressure on some Republicans in this reasonably strong union state to vote against it. Moreover, the lack of national pressure suggests the long-time Republican strategy of waiting out short-term Democratic protests, as in Wisconsin, will work in Indiana. By this I mean that liberals protest every now and again but don’t have the day-to-day organizing structure to fight these fires wherever they flare up. Let liberals focus on Wisconsin and conservatives will shift to Indiana and New Hampshire, leaving Wisconsin for a later date.

For whatever reason, even Democracy Now is coming up short on this issue. Instead of being a strong advocate for Indiana labor, it hosted a debate on the issue, allowing a Republican representative to give the 1% side of the story. Can you imagine a union newspaper of the 1930s giving a capitalist equal play? A civil rights newspaper of the 60s allowing a racist equal time? I mean, I know it’s hard for capitalists to get their message out in 2011 and all…..

Indiana should be the next Wisconsin, yet it has received almost no attention. I know our political expectations are lower in Indiana than Wisconsin, but this is war on the working-class that needs to be fought on every front. Instead, we have another 2 million tweets about whatever Rick Santorum said in some meaningless primary debate.

* I’m not entirely saying the Republican Primary doesn’t matter, though on the issues I care about, the differences between the various candidates are almost nil. It’s that the Republican Primary is over so maybe we should talk about something that actually affects people.

** If Daniels had actually run, what would his chances be of winning the nomination at this point? 20%. Fail.

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    • Pee Cee says:

      It is supported by Southern segregationists who are trying to keep us from achieving our civil rights and our right of equal job opportunity.

      And now, those segregationists are hurt just as much as everyone else by the low wages and high unemployment caused by “right to work”.

      Those high-paying manufacturing and textile jobs that the Southern states used to have? Gone. Replaced by low-wage call center jobs.

    • Joseph Slater says:

      Great quote and very timely, Malaclypse.

  1. Incontinentia Buttocks says:

    In Oklahoma, Right to Work for Less was passed by ballot initiative. The national AFL-CIO came in to run the anti campaign. And as far as I could tell as a volunteer in that effort, they were basically going through the motions so that they could claim to have opposed the referendum while not bothering to be a visible enough presence to seem to have been defeated when they lost. They wouldn’t even let those of us from Norman organize leafletting at OU football games

    For those of you not from this part of the country, OU football games are the single largest assembly of people in a public space in the state. During election years, every campaign uses them as an occasion to leaflet, pass out stickers, fly planes over the stadium, etc. The documentary film Vote For Me about American elections actually begins outside an OU football game. Yet the AFL folks specifically forbade us from having a presence there. The charitable explanation was that they had put the campaign in charge of folks who simply didn’t understand the local political culture. The less charitable explanation is that they didn’t want the public to be aware of their “campaign” since they believed they were going to lose.

  2. Incontinentia Buttocks says:

    I’m not entirely saying the Republican Primary doesn’t matter, though on the issues I care about, the differences between the various candidates are almost nil. It’s that the Republican Primary is over so maybe we should talk about something that actually affects people.

    The correct reason not to care about the Republican Primary campaign is that it’s been over for over a week.

    It does actually make a difference who wins because, with the exception of Huntsman, Romney, who will be the nominee, has the greatest chance of winning in the fall.

  3. libarbarian says:

    Why the hell are unions legally required to represent non-union workers? What is the justification for that policy?

    • Erik Loomis says:

      What capitalist needs justification? There is no justification. It’s a way to fuck over unions. Pure and simple.

    • Hogan says:

      “Because we can.”

    • R Johnston says:

      Theft is its own justification in this case. Union members simply don’t deserve to have property rights. Screwing over all workers, union and non-union alike, is another justification.

      Now if you’re looking for good justifications . . .

      • libarbarian says:

        So why not attack those laws?

        Seems to me that it would be easier to attack a law forcing unions to represent parasites than to defend the policy of making the would-be moochers pay for that representation.

        The more difference there is between the safety and happiness of Union and non-Union employees, the more people will willingly join unions and stop being parasites.

        • Holden Pattern says:

          So why not attack those laws?

          Nobody’s ever thought of that!

        • Richard says:

          The Taft-Hartley Act specifically allows states to enact right to work laws. There’s no grounds to “attack” the laws except to defeat the right to work proposals

          • libarbarian says:

            I meant attack the laws that force Unions to represent non-Union employees.

            A union should have the right to negotiate contracts that benefit ONLY union workers and leave non-union workers to their fate. When they stop getting that “free ride” maybe they will wise up and join too. Or die in work-related accidents. Either way, it’s one less parasite.

            • Richard says:

              Attack under what premise? Because you think its unfair? The only way to attack it is to repeal the current labor laws and thats not going to happen. Under current law, the union must negotiate a contract for all workers under its purview and can’t exclude the non-members (plus as I and others point out below, an contrary provision would probably strengthen the anti-union forces)

            • Alex says:

              The whole point of a union is for the it to be the exclusive agent for representating all the employees, and the corollary of that is it must agree to represent all the employees.

              You’re proposing to remove the foundation block supporting the entire theory of collective bargaining.

              It is like saying we should build a buliding without a foundation.

    • Joseph Slater says:

      The idea in U.S. labor law is majority, exclusive representation. You need exclusive represenatation, the theory goes, because the whole premise of unions equalizing bargaining power depends on them representing all of X category of employees — employees in an appropriate bargaining unit. It’s also inefficient, the argument continues, to have one set of rules for, say, unionized secretaries, and another set of rules for non-union-secretaries.

      So, where a union is voted in by a majority, anti-union employees who were in the minority are still represented by the union. And, the theory goes, if that’s true, the union should have a duty to represent them fairly.

      One can imagine an alternative system featuring what are often called “minority” unions — the union gets to represent employees who want to be represented, and only has to represent those employees. Fair minds can argue the pros and cons of such a system (I think there would be both).

      But as long as we have exclusive, majority representation, unions will have a duty to represent all folks in a union bargaining unit fairly. And as long as that’s true, right-to-work rules create what conservatives in any other context would see as a clear free rider problem. Hey, I like my cable company fine, but if it were required to provide me the same service whether or not I paid my cable bill, I actually might not pay my cable bill. Go figure.

      • mark f says:

        Well-explained. Thanks.

        One quibble:

        right-to-work rules create what conservatives in any other context would see as a clear free rider problem

        You have forgotten that the individual health insurance mandate is The Socialistest Assault on Freedom Ever (possible tied with Islamic Fascism).

        • Joseph Slater says:

          I would accept a friendly amendment to “almost any other context,” or, more accurately “any other context that didn’t involve a policy Democrats support.”

    • HororableBob says:

      Why the hell are unions legally required to represent non-union workers? What is the justification for that policy?

      The company must treat all employees equally. This has been a liberal cornerstone of fairness for forever.

      No one is mentioning the other side of the story and that is the right of the individual that is seeking a job.

      Right to work laws simply say that joining a non-employer, non-government organization in order to have a job is not required.

      They can join if they wish…or not.

      I’m not a big union fan. They had their moment and now it’s time to move on.

      • R Johnston says:

        On the contrary, given the anti-regulatory fervor of the Republican party and the docile reaction of the Democrats, unions are more important today than they’ve been in a long time. Unions need to be much stronger and more widespread than they are.

      • Malaclypse says:

        Ahem.

        “In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. It is supported by Southern segregationists who are trying to keep us from achieving our civil rights and our right of equal job opportunity. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone…Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.” – Martin Luther King, 1961

      • wengler says:

        They had their moment and now it’s time to move on.

        Workers had rights once. Now it’s time to move on.

        • HororableBob says:

          Workers had rights once.

          Oh, good lord!

          The laws now protect the worker. There are no child laborers, no 90 hour weeks and with OSHA there is a way to address dangerous working conditions. These problems have been solved and those were the real reasons why unions existed.

          Now….not so much.

          • wengler says:

            You are one daft person.

            Have you no contact with any person in any work situation where they’ve been exploited?

            Or are you the exploiter?

            • Malaclypse says:

              I assume he is the person riding the medicare scooter.

            • mark f says:

              Not to mention that without the advocacy and political power of unions many of those protections would be rolled back without even much debate.

              • Malaclypse says:

                Now that’s just silly. Next you’ll be telling us that an actual candidate for President will propose eliminating child labor laws, calling them “stupid.”

                • R Johnston says:

                  To be fair, calling notRomney members of the Republican field “actual candidates” is a bit of a stretch. Perry might have been one very briefly–if he’d managed not to Palin himself until Super Tuesday was over he could easily have secured the nomination, and while that was never likely he certainly might have done a better job of not appearing to be appallingly stupid on camera–but Newt and the rest certainly never were.

                • mark f says:

                  Preposterous! Inconceivable!

      • Joseph Slater says:

        The law doesn’t require that members of union bargaining units pay any dues (even though the law does require that unions represent them). In non-right to work states, the law *permits* unions and employers to enter into contracts requiring such payments for services. So called “right to work” states make such agreements illegal, even if both the employer and union want it. And the union wage premium is almost always well above what yearly dues cost.

        By the way, the general default rule in U.S. law — employment at-will — allows private employers to require membership (not just some dues, as with unions, but actual membership) in a wide variety of organizations as a condition of employment. Does that trouble you?

      • Alex says:

        No employee can be required to join a union as a condition of employment, regardless of what the contract states.

        The most an employee can be required to do is pay the costs the incurred by the union in representing the employees, called an agency fee.

  4. libarbarian says:

    Why not just let non-union workers sink or swim on their own. Why not let Unions negotiate for their members and only their members?

    • Richard says:

      Because practically that won’t work. You would have some employees bound by a union contract anc some employees not (and the company would have to administer different work rules, wages, etc for different workers which would be a nightmare). The problem is not in requiring unions to represent all workers, the problem is in the right to work laws which allow an employee to not pay dues. We should have open shop rules in all states – the employee is not required to join the union but is required to pay union dues because he gets the advantage of the union’s work.

    • solidicitizen says:

      Any sane company would almost certainly give non-union members better wages and benefits. Even slightly better benefits would undercut the union and probably quickly eliminate the union.

      Plus, as much as unionists hate the leeches and moochers, we still believe that workers should have rights and protections. When push comes to shove, it’s hard to tell a non-members to piss off when they are being treated like shit.

      • DrDick says:

        You obviously have never worked for a company eligible for unionization in Oklahoma. There are a whole lot of “not sane” companies that instead use this situation to drive out the unions.

      • Linnaeus says:

        Any sane company would almost certainly give non-union members better wages and benefits. Even slightly better benefits would undercut the union and probably quickly eliminate the union.

        Exactly. If the employer is playing the long game in a situation in which the union doesn’t represent non-members, they could do the following:

        1) Offer substantial advantages to non-members. You may think, “well, what’s wrong with that? Workers get ahead, right?” But then you get to:

        2) Workers decide not to join the union or leave the union after they’ve already joined. Then the employer can try to have the union decertified (if representation is low enough) or the workers themselves decide to do so. Then:

        3) Union is gone and then the employer cuts the benefits it offered non-members. Now they’ve got cheaper labor and no union in the long term.

        • Richard says:

          Precisely. That why we want unions to represent non-members and members alike but require the non-members to pay dues (the open shop) but don’t want to allow the represented persons to opt out of paying dues (right to work laws)

          • HororableBob says:

            You’re forcing the worker to pay an organization that is neither government nor his employer or he can’t have a job.

            Really?

            Think this is fair?

            • Malaclypse says:

              Libertarians tell me that people are always Free to work elsewhere.

              Why do you hate Freedom? If you think we will just stand by and let you besmirch Freedom, and America, you are sadly mistaken! Good day, sir! Good day!

            • Joseph Slater says:

              Which again, is entirely legal everywhere for pretty much any organization that isn’t a union. Employers can require employees to join the local zoo, etc., as a condition of employment. Think that’s fair or do you want to get rid of employment at will?

        • Joseph Slater says:

          The employer treating different employees differently because they are pro- or anti-union is very likely a violation of NLRA Sec. 8(a)(3). That’s one of the many reasons “minority union bargaining” is tricky.

          • DrDick says:

            And since when has something being illegal ever stopped a business from doing something? See firing union organizers, hiring undocumented workers, gross safety violations (as w Massey), etc.

    • Anonymous says:

      Why not just let non-union workers sink or swim on their own. Why not let Unions negotiate for their members and only their members?

      Because this makes it very easy to destroy a union. The company can start giving out benefits and extra pay and other goodies to the non-union members only; union members will leave to receive those benefits, Union goes away, benefits/pay go away, Union destroyed. Very easy. A straightforward divide and conquer.

  5. wengler says:

    Did Republicans in Indiana run on Right-to-work-for-nothing laws in 2010? What’s that? They didn’t?

    Just look at a map and you see that the old Confederacy is the bastion of anti-union sentiment(who knew?). Indiana is just trying to take its place as the northern ideological home of the old Slavery South.

    They did the same thing with the KKK.

  6. rea says:

    Here in Michigan, our wingnut Republican governor is begging his wingnut colleagues in the Legislature not to start this fight.

    • Linnaeus says:

      I know that Snyder’s approval ratings (at least last time I looked) aren’t very good, but I suspect that he’s a bit savvier than either Walker or Kasich. I’m sure he’s no friend to unions, but the missteps of his neighbors are lessons to him as to what not to do, and he seems to be learning well.

  7. Alex says:

    Just a clarification on “right to work” laws.

    Whether or not an employee is required to “join” a union (or, more exactly, pay financial support for its representative activities) is determined by the collective bargaining agreement. A union shop clause typically states that an employee must join the union, which the Supreme Court has interpreted to mean it can require employees to support the union an agency fee. But the contract can legally allow employees the option of joining. This occurs infrequently since unions are willing to make concessions to obtain a union shop clause and correspondingly less willing to agree to a provision which dilutes their strength and financial base.

    What a “right to work” law does is give a worker the right to withhold finamcial support from the union, without regard to the contract between the union and employer. It creates, as Erik points out, the problem of the free rider, and erodes the financial strength of the union. And it does so where the relative bargaining strength of the parties and interest of the employees dictates such an arrangement.

    It allows the individual to exempt himself from one tiny point of collective bargaining, and its sole purpose is to make it finamcially more difficult for unions to operate in those states.

  8. [...] “Indiana should be the next Wisconsin, yet it has received almost no attention.” [...]

  9. For whatever reason, even Democracy Now is coming up short on this issue. Instead of being a strong advocate for Indiana labor, it hosted a debate on the issue, allowing a Republican representative to give the 1% side of the story. Can you imagine a union newspaper of the 1930s giving a capitalist equal play? A civil rights newspaper of the 60s allowing a racist equal time? I mean, I know it’s hard for capitalists to get their message out in 2011 and all…..

    On the other hand, the capitalist message is all over, and if a pro-union organization ignores it altogether, it might just sound like an echo chamber that will turn off those on-the-fence workers. If someone’s not sure whether to support so-called right to work laws, I think they might stand a better chance of being convinced if the arguments for such laws are heard and refuted rather than by being preached to.

    And no, I don’t think a civil rights newspaper in the 1960s ought to include the views of a racist as a “legitimate point to be debated.”

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