Prior to the election in November, we communicated to the public about the importance of voting and supporting candidates who are friends of labor. Unfortunately, the political environment shifted and took many of our labor-endorsed candidates out of office.
We are now forced to deal with upcoming legislation in the state of Indiana that will be on the offensive to weaken labor unions and make them irrelevant in the workplace and in social and political arenas. As reported last month in the papers, Republican Wes Culver of Goshen has already introduced a misleading and intentionally misnamed "right-to-work" bill in the Indiana House of Representatives.
"It isn't a 'right-to-work' bill for jobs, but it is a 'forced representation' bill."
First, we must stop reinforcing their language when speaking about this bill. It isn't a "right-to-work" bill for jobs, but it is a "forced representation" bill that gives employers the "right-to wreck" our well-paying jobs and create a financial burden on existing unions to make them ineffective and insignificant.
Second, we must start communicating with our friends, neighbors, media outlets (at least writing letters to the editor) and elected representatives about how this bill will not only affect the livelihood of union members but all workers and the economy as a whole.
The forced-representation bill permits states to invoke Section 14(b) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) that allows employers to opt out of "union security clauses" in collective bargaining agreements. This option was added in the 1947 Taft-Hartley amendment to the NLRA as a payback to employers who had seen unions grow in prominence and power during that era.
Instead of just coming out and saying, "We want to destroy labor unions," unfriendly politicians, anti-worker employers and the Chamber of Commerce will first use the excuse that the state needs this legislation to "make our business environment more competitive."
This is an outrageous claim perpetuated to instill fear during these hard economic times. We have plenty of data to support the fact that employers look at a whole host of reasons to move or relocate, and whether a state has forced representation on the books is at the bottom of the list. For instance, in the September 2010 issue of Area Development magazine, considered the leading executive magazine covering corporate site selection and relocation, it rated Indiana No. 6 in the country for doing business based on eight criteria:
1. Lowest business costs,
2. Most business friendly
3. Corporate tax environment,
4. Overall labor climate,
5. Work force development programs,
6. Fast-track permitting
7. Rail and highway accessibility and
8. Shovel-ready sites.
Plus, we have one of the lowest unemployment insurance rates, labor laws aren't enforced at the state level, wage theft is rampant among low-wage workers and the ability for unions to organize are already hindered by weak and ineffective laws under the NLRA.
"Instead of just coming out and saying, 'We want to destroy labor unions,' unfriendly politicians, anti-worker employers and the Chamber of Commerce will first use the excuse that the state needs this legislation to 'make our business environment more competitive.'"
If that argument doesn't work, the anti-union groups move on to the next one, which declares that employers "are concerned for their employees" in "dealing with a third party, the union." Again, the face they put on for the public is nowhere close to what is behind their true intentions.
For union members, they are the union, they are the voice, and they make the choice to be union members. It is amazing how, when some employers face employees who decide to be a union member, there is all out "worry and concern" that their employees are being mistreated. However, before unions entered the scene, employers dictated to their employees all of the terms and conditions of employment without any input from them or real concern for their well-being.
Forced representation potentially allows the benefits of representation to be enjoyed by all with the cost borne by only a few. Can you imagine attending public schools and receiving an education from the taxpayers, without paying your fair share of taxes; driving down an interstate highway system built with taxpayer money, without paying your fair share of taxes; calling the fire department to extinguish a fire at your home, without paying your fair share of taxes? It's unfair and it's not right.
What about companies and employers reaping the benefits of being Chamber of Commerce members (whatever those may be) and not paying their share of a membership fee? Or business owners playing golf at the local country club and not paying membership fees? Do you think these scenarios would ever happen? I think not.
Teachers unions are first on the hit list, then construction labor unions, followed by all other unions, with the ultimate effect the creation of an exponential economic downward spiral for all workers. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: If unions no longer exist, who will be the voice for working-family issues? Will it be the Chamber? Will it be government officials? Hopefully, we will never have to go there, and you will be one of the voices, right now!
Tom Szymanski can be reached at email@example.com.