Aug 4, 2008
Another tactic to kill middle class set to be launched
Michigan Republicans continue their war on the middle class with its continued push for so-called “Right-to-Work” laws.
Word in Lansing is that Republican Senator Nancy Cassis is set to introduce a bill to establish so called “Right to Work” zones. Republicans have failed to pass a state wide right to work for less law, and a threatened ballot initiative has also failed to materialize. This seems a scaled down assault on the middle and working class that has been ongoing for more than 50 years.
Wizardkitten over at Blogging for Michigan has an excellent take on “right to work for less zones,” and they are similar to tax-advantaged enterprise zones. These laws are meant to simply kill labor unions, roll back workplace protections and depress wages.
RTW bills are before both the Michigan House and Senate, but they continue to remain stuck in committee. In the House, Rep. Jacob Hoogendyk, R-Kalamazoo, introduced House Bill 4454, and Rep. Kevin Elsenheimer, R-Bellaire, introduced HB 4455, both to make Michigan an RTW state. In the Senate, Cassis introduced companion bills, Senate Bills 607 and 608.
Proponents of RTW claim the law would do away with the requirement that workers must be in a union to be employed at a union shop. However, federal law already protects workers who don't want to join a union to get or keep their jobs, and gives workers the right to opt out of a union. But they must still pay union dues. RTW would give them the option of not paying dues while still enjoying the benefits of being in a union.
Unions in RTW states are required by law to defend non-dues-paying members involved in a dispute or charged with a grievance at work, but even those employees do not have to contribute dues. Opponents of RTW say such a provision does not give workers more rights, but instead it weakens unions and their ability to bargain for improved benefits and working conditions, which they call the real intent of RTW. The union, by law, must represent all workers equally.
Workers in RTW states make an average of $5,900 less in annual salary, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In addition, the rate of workplace deaths is 41 percent higher in RTW states, according to the bureau, and 20 percent more workers in RTW states go without health insurance.