CommunityThe Bullpen

War on American Worker Fighting – And Succeeding – Across the Country

You could make an argument that this is a great time for the labor movement, energized by the battle in Wisconsin and ready to re-establish themselves in the American consciousness as part of what builds and protects the middle class. And to an extent that’s true. But the wave of labor protests sweeping the country are the direct result of rear-guard, defensive actions where right-wing politicians are attacking and assaulting the rights of the worker. And they won’t all end in victories for labor.

It didn’t in Wisconsin, where Scott Walker had the votes, eventually, to get his anti-union bill out of the legislature. That’s currently tied up in court. But other states are moving forward as well. There’s a Walker-like bill that just passed a House committee in New Hampshire:

Under the terms of this plan, public sector workers in the state would become “at will” employees if and when their contracts expire.

That eliminates all the leverage state employees have in negotiation with their employers, and could ultimately end up busting the unions entirely.

New Hampshire has a Democratic governor, but John Lynch has been known to be pretty conservative. Lynch appears to oppose the bill but he has also said he would have to see the final language before committing to a veto. Republicans have such majorities in the legislature that they could potentially override the veto. The labor protests in the House committee when they passed the bill were intense.

Like Walker’s anti-union legislation, the New Hampshire bill would end the automatic collection of union dues out of paychecks and forces an annual re-certification of the union. ALEC has basically created a boilerplate for these bills. A bill in Florida split off the paycheck provisions and passed their state House this week.

Union leaders representing government workers may need to start looking for new ways to collect payment from their members after the Florida House voted 73-40 on Friday, largely along party lines, to ban automatic payroll deductions of union dues for all government workers.

House Bill 1021 would also require written authorization by union members for their dues to be used for any political activities […]

Democrats argued that the legislation is nothing more than a thinly veiled and un-American attempt at “union busting,” because unions generally support Democrats.

“This is a calculated step to diminish the power of the unions, and only takes critical brain power away from the issues of what we should be focused on today, jobs, jobs, jobs, economic recovery, education, budget balancing and health care,” said Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton. “We didn’t get elected to sit here to wage an ideological war. We were elected to work together for the state of Florida.”

There are other bills moving in Florida. One would require re-certification for unions that represent a minority of members in any organization. Another would force unions to send a letter to members explaining their right to de-certify.

Alabama already passed the paycheck bill this year, but a federal judge blocked it on the grounds that the law violates free speech and equal protection rights. Florida labor officials said they may challenge their bill because it singles out unions and not other organizations who have automatic payroll deductions set up. But the Supreme Court ruled in 2009 that Idaho could ban automatic deduction, so there’s certainly a path to surviving the challenge.

It goes without saying that none of these provisions really have anything to do with state budgets. They are mostly about decimating unions and removing their power. Because unions most often support Democrats financially, this is merely a Republican effort to attack the power base of the funders of their opponents.

But the point is, the proverbial goalie can only block so many shots. Florida is already a right-to-work state and has several anti-union measures on the books. Other states, like Idaho and Michigan, have successfully passed bills that will impact unions. And dozens of other states are going down that road. And that says nothing of the federal anti-union push that should really heat up next week.

This is a war on the American worker, and in every war, you can lose some battles.

Previous post

WA: Anti-gay state senator Dan Swecker approves pro-gay bill

Next post

Obama Speaking to Members of Congress on Libya Conference Call

David Dayen

David Dayen