Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Impact of Indiana and the Republican Party on Illinois

Labor suffered a major blow yesterday when Governor Mitch Daniels signed a "Right to Work" law into effect in Indiana. He did so, not surprisingly, with the blessings and support of the Republican party. According to the Indiana Star Press,
Daniels and other Republican supporters characterized the measure as needed for Indiana to attract jobs.
But that sentiment is not echoed by all concerned.
Senate Minority Leader Vi Simpson, D-Ellettsville, disputed the promise of new jobs, saying “there is no empirical evidence... that right to work creates one job.” “It’s a downward spiral to lower wages and fewer benefits,” she said.
The Denver Post in Colorado, a state where Right to Work legislation has yet to be passed, had this to say:
Indiana became the Rust Belt's first right-to-work state Wednesday in a move that is sure to embolden advocates seeking to curtail union rights across the country. But whether other states can replicate the conservatives' success in Indiana is less certain. The political factors that aligned in Indiana were unique, and it is unlikely the same thing could happen in other states — at least for now.

There are currently 23 Right to Work States (see map below), states that have effectively eliminated the rights of Unions to represent their workers with adequate means. You see, the RTW legislation doesn't eliminate unions, or union shops, but it does prevent the unions from collecting dues from workers who decline to join. This means less money for the union to hire legal representation for collective bargaining, contract disputes, and regulations concerning worker safety and conditions. It also means less clout for Unions against Management in the Political arena.

Since 2010, Corporate personhood with respect to Political Spending has become a major issue in the United States.

The corporate personhood aspect of the campaign finance debate turns on Buckley v. Valeo (1976) and Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010): Buckley ruled that political spending is protected by the First Amendment right to free speech, while Citizens United ruled that corporate political spending is protected, holding that corporations have a First Amendment right to free speech.

That decision has allowed corporations to pour massive contributions into the campaigns of candidates who will support corporate goals, whether or not those goals coincide with the constituency the candidate is supposed to represent. Even worse, union membership has fallen significantly with the elimination of manufacturing jobs here in the United States.

At the apex of union density in the 1940s, only about 9.8% of public employees were represented by unions, while 33.9% of private, non-agricultural workers had such representation. In this decade, those proportions have essentially reversed, with 36% of public workers being represented by unions while private sector union density had plummeted to around 7%. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics most recent survey indicates that union membership in the US has risen to 12.4% of all workers, from 12.1% in 2007. For a short period, private sector union membership rebounded, increasing from 7.5% in 2007 to 7.6% in 2008.[10] However, that trend has since reversed. In 2009, the union density for private sector stood at 7.2%.[11]

So what does this mean to us in Illinois? According the Labor, nothing good.

Right-to-work is plain-and-simple union-busting. It is designed to encourage "free riders," and to weaken or destroy unions. And that’s exactly what it has accomplished in the states that have these laws. Worst of all, it has translated into lower wages and benefits, a diminished standard of living, substandard legal protections and more dangerous working conditions for all workers – not just union members -- in right-to-work states.
In 2003, the U.S. Department of Labor reported that 19 of the 25 states with the highest worker fatality rates were right-to-work states, while just three of the bottom 25 states were right-to-work states. A study by the Economic Policy Institute showed that workers in right-to-work states earned an average of 6.5% less than their counterparts in states without the law. None of the 22 right-to-work states had an average annual pay level above the U.S. average.
When wages fall, state tax revenues fall. That means less funding for education, transportation and other vital programs. Right-to-work is bad not just for union members, but for everyone.

It would seem Right To Work legislation is a godsend for those who want to bust unions in favor of boosting the economy. But boosting it for who? According to the data I've cited above, the economy might get a boost, but the boost will be in the pockets of the Corporations, not the workers, who will reduce wages, benefits, and safety standards for workers in order to make a buck. Thankfully, our own Governor Quinn, a Democrat, does not share Indiana's enthusiasm:

As Indiana lawmakers head toward final passage of so-called “right to work” legislation, Gov. Pat Quinn is calling it a bad move that won’t help Indiana compete with Illinois for business.
Mocking the legislation as the “right to work for less” bill, Quinn joined opponents who have called such laws an assault on organized labor.

According to, Republican Aaron Schock is beholding to Business for 87% of his more than $2,000,000.00 campaign war chest. Republican Bobby Schilling receives 57% of his donations from business. (I guess Bobby doesn't have Aaron's / LaHood's clout.)

So what's the bottom line? It would seem from my perspective that the age old battle of Unions versus Management is still as heated as ever, but the Republicans are stacking the deck in their favor. If you vote, and you should, and you are in a union or realize the importance of unions in our society, Vote Democrat!

States in teal are Right To Work states.

No comments:

Post a Comment