July 26th, 2013

A non-stop ALEC campaign against workers in many states

In 2013, 11 states have introduced 15 versions of our anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB). Since 2003, 25 U.S. states have carried our bill. It has not become law in any state yet. Is it the fault of the bill itself? Unlikely, given that we campaign with unfunded volunteer State Coordinators assisted by former bullied individuals who testify with their life stories. The opposition is well-funded and they give money to legislators’ election funds. The business lobby easily convinces lawmakers that state government’s job is to help corporations operate in their state. Unions are vilified. Workers ignored. It’s the new normal.

The lawmakers with the courage to champion the HWB come from all parties. Abuse ignores party affiliation. We thank them. However, they are the exceptions. Most politicians of all parties accept business lobby money and sell off the people’s legislatures to the highest bidders — and that is not you or us.

Mary Bottari and Rebekah Wilce from the Center for Media and Democracy compiled the list of 2013 anti-worker bills active in state legislatures across the country. All are driven by ALEC, the corporate funded group that writes model bills and orchestrates partnerships in meetings and conferences between member lawmakers and corporations and desired legislation. While we have 15 bills in 2013, ALEC has 117 bills with a near certain chance of passage in states where both chambers and the governor are Republican.

Highlights of the CMD report which reminds us that ALEC names bills with propaganda in mind …

• ALEC’s so-called “Right to Work Act” bill (introduced in 15 states in 2013) does nothing to create jobs or job security, but it does shred the fabric of unions by preventing them from requiring each employee who benefits from the terms of a contract to pay his or her share of the costs of administering it. While unions can exist in “Right to Work” states, they are in a much weaker position. When a state can’t pass a proposal as radical as “Right to Work,” ALEC has provided dozens of other options.

• ALEC’s so-called “Paycheck Protection” bill (introduced in six states in 2013) requires that unions establish separate segregated funds for political activities, and prohibits the collection of union dues for those activities without the express authorization of the employee. The “Public Employee Paycheck Protection Act” (introduced in four states in 2013) forces employees to approve union payroll deductions each year. The “Political Funding Reform Act” (introduced in five states in 2013) prohibits payroll deductions for any funds that might be used for political purposes. The more extreme “Public Employer Payroll Deduction Policy Act” (introduced in five states in 2013) prohibits deduction of all union dues. All these bills are attempts to dismantle unions in the guise of worker freedom. For federal electoral spending, unions already have segregated funding requirements. At the state level, the U.S. Supreme Court long ago gave protections to any worker who does not want their union dues to go to politics. Unions have had opt-out systems in place for decades.

• Multiple bills attacking prevailing wage, living wages, and minimum wages have been introduced across the country (in at least 14 states). ALEC is on record as being against these measures that not only put an upward pressure on wages in a region but also set a very low floor (a full-time worker earning minimum wage earns $15,080 a year, which is not much for a family of four to live on) below which not even the Koch brothers are allowed to pay. Experts at the National Employment Law Project say that ALEC’s “wage suppression agenda” serves as a significant counterforce to fights across the nation at the state and local level for better wages and workplace standards.

• ALEC advances privatization and outsourcing of public services to workers with fewer credentials, lower salaries and fewer benefits, with model bills such as the Council On Efficient Government Act(introduced in four states), which establishes a committee to assess how for-profit corporations can capture taxpayer dollars by operating public services.

• Michigan’s Mackinac Center — an ALEC member and a member of the network of right-wing state-based think tanks the State Policy Network that works closely with ALEC — brought three new bills limiting workers’ rights to ALEC’s Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development Task Force in 2012: “The Election Accountability for Municipal Employee Union Representatives Act” (introduced in Idaho) would require public sector employees to vote on unionization every three to five years (a majority of all eligible members — not just voting members — would be required to maintain union representation); “The Decertification Elections Act” (introduced in Arizona) would make it easier for both public and private employees to decertify their union; and “The Financial Accountability for Public Employee Unions Act” (introduced in Montana; passed Michigan in 2012) would require public sector unions to publish audits of their financial activities.

• Ten states introduced proposals to dramatically alter pensions for teachers and other public employees by moving towards the elimination of defined benefit pension plans (which guarantee a certain level of benefits), to be replaced by defined contribution plans (which leave the payout to market forces). These bills reflect the principles in the ALEC “Public Employees’ Portable Retirement Option (PRO) Act” and the ALEC “Statement of Principles on State and Local Government Pension and Other Post Employment Benefits Plans.” These proposals are backed by big Wall Street firms, which earn money by extracting millions of dollars in fees and administration costs from privately-managed retirement plans. It is worth noting that ALEC also supports the privatization of Social Security, with its “Resolution Urging Congress To Modernize the Social Security System With Personal Retirement Accounts (PRA’s)” (introduced in Arizona this year).

To see the staggering complete list of assaults on workers, go here.

This then is the context for our legislation. It’s a hostile time, but we remain confident in states without ALEC control the HWB will indeed become law in the near future.


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This entry was posted on Friday, July 26th, 2013 at 7:13 am and is filed under Commentary by G. Namie, Healthy Workplace Bill (U.S. campaign), The New America, Workplace Bullying Laws. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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