Politics House Democrats to vote to override state 'right-to-work' laws, boosting labor movement

10:05  28 january  2020
10:05  28 january  2020 Source:   washingtonexaminer.com

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The right to work is the concept that people have a human right to work , or engage in productive employment, and may not be prevented from doing so. The right to work is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized in international human rights law through its inclusion in

Right - to - work laws , existing in 27 states as of 2019, let employees work at a place whether or not they In the U.S., state right - to - work laws pertain to labor unions and workers at a company. A bill establishing one, the National Right - to - Work Act, was introduced in the House of Representatives

The Democrat-led House is set next week to vote on legislation to override the 27 states that have given workers a right to work without being forced to join a union or to give it a cut of their paycheck.

Bernie Sanders et al. standing in front of a crowd© Provided by Washington Examiner

House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott, a Virginia Democrat, argued that such "right-to-work" laws are unfair to unions and the workers that back collective bargaining, necessitating his bill, the Protecting the Right to Organize Act.

“Under current law, unions are required to negotiate on behalf of all employees, regardless if they belong to the union or not," Scott told the Washington Examiner. "The PRO Act simply allows workers to decide that all workers represented by the union should contribute to the costs associated with negotiating on their behalf."

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Some states with laws allowing time off to vote impose penalties if an employer keeps workers from exercising their right to vote . While the penalties in some of the states that have them can be quite severe, other states do not have penalties at all. In New York and Colorado, companies essentially

State right - to - work laws make these sorts of contracts illegal, meaning that workers in unionized Lynch vetoed a very similar proposal last May, the House ’s attempt to override that veto failed last A right - to - work movement has also begun to take hold in Michigan, too. As my colleague Andy Kroll

Scrapping the state laws would force potentially millions of individual workers to give away part of their salaries, whether they wanted to or not, said Greg Mourad, vice president of the National Right to Work Committee, which represents workers in cases against unions. “The term ‘right to work' means the right to not have to pay for union so-called representation that workers don’t want, didn’t ask for, and believe actually goes against their interests," he told the Washington Examiner.

The PRO Act is a collection of far-reaching pro-union reforms intended to strengthen the movement and boost membership. It is the centerpiece of the Democrats’ labor agenda in Congress and is backed by White House contenders, including Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren. The latter three are original co-sponsors of the Senate version of the bill.

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The state House voted 58-51 to pass a right - to - work bill for public employees, and 58-52 on a bill for private sector workers. There was a muted reaction in the Capitol rotunda to the first vote , as protesters continued singing “Solidarity Forever” until word filtered around that it had passed.

‘ Right - to - Work ’ laws cover all workers, regardless of non-union member refusal to pay fees normally associated with membership rights to collective Contrary to legal opinion, unions also maintain that the laws are the impetus to dissension among workers, weakening the labor movement to their

Union support is crucial to Democrats. Labor poured $174 million into the 2018 election cycle alone, $60 million of which went to Democratic candidates versus only $10 million to Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. At the same time, unions are struggling to retain members, now representing just 10.3% of the workforce, the lowest level since the Labor Department started tracking the figure.

Ending "right to work" has been a particular issue for Sanders, who argues the laws are pushed by business to undermine unions. The PRO Act is largely a repackaging of a bill Sanders introduced in the previous Congress, called the Workplace Democracy Act.

“When billionaires like the Koch brothers spend millions of dollars successfully lobbying for so-called right to work for less laws — they are waging a war on workers,” Sanders said in an April speech to the International Association of Machinists.

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whatsoever to pay for the political activities of the union, what do these ‘ right to work ’ laws seek to do and where do they come from? You can support these laws if you believe that lessening the collective bargaining power of workers will bring business to your state or that lower paying jobs is

WASHINGTON— House Committee on Education and Labor Chairman Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) will convene a WASHINGTON— House Committee on Education and Labor Chairman Rep. Canceling right - to - work laws that have been in force for decades since they were authorized by Section 14(b)

Right-to-work laws say that employees cannot be forced to join or otherwise financially support a union as a condition of their job. Specifically, the laws prohibit union-management contracts from including so-called fair share fee provisions that require all workers to support the union financially.

The provisions are commonly used in union contracts in non-right-to-work states, and many labor organizations depend on them. Congress in 1947 amended the National Labor Relations Act to give states the right to outlaw fair share fee provisions, and 27 have adopted laws to that effect. Unions in those states are typically much weaker, having a harder time retaining members and the funds they bring in.

Unions and their allies argue that right-to-work laws encourage economic “free riders” since unions are legally obligated to represent all workers, even nonmembers. "Repealing right to work is fair to workers, individually and collectively, and fairer than the right-to-work system," said Lynn Rhinehart, senior fellow at the Economic Policy Institute, a left-of-center nonprofit think tank. "It’s not fair to have a system where some workers pay dues or fees toward the cost of that representation while others get the benefits but pay nothing."

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F. Vincent Vernuccio, a senior fellow at the conservative Mackinac Center, countered that unions never try to be relieved of the burden of representing nonmembers. “The ‘free ridership’ problem is actually a ‘forced ridership’ problem. A better solution would be to make union membership fully optional,” he said. That would mean nonmembers wouldn’t get any benefits obtained from a union’s collective bargaining. Unions don’t push for such arrangements because they would rather get the workers' dues money, Vernuccio argued.

Most states that adopted right-to-work laws did it in the 1940s and 1950s, but there was a resurgence in interest that began a decade ago. Five states have adopted the laws since 2012. The Supreme Court’s 2018 Janus v. AFSCME decision extended similar protection to public-sector workers.

Plaintiff Mark Janus, a former Illinois state employee, told the Washington Examiner at the time of his case that he was standing up for the rights of individual workers. “It’s not about the money for me. It’s about my rights. My right to say ‘no’ is at least as important as my right to say ‘yes,’” he said.

The resurgence in right-to-work laws may now be ebbing. No other state appears poised to adopt one. Missouri would have been the 28th state, but voters last year approved a referendum stopping the measure before it went into effect.

The PRO Act would rewrite the NLRA to undo the 1947 amendment. “This bill, and others we’ve seen in various states, tries to subtly redefine ‘right to work’ to mean only the right to not have to formally be a member of the union, which is already guaranteed by the Supreme Court,” Mourad said. Nonmembers would still be obligated to support unions financially.

There has long been support for scrapping right to work on the Left, but the PRO Act enjoys unprecedented support among Democrats. The Senate version of the PRO Act was introduced with 39 original co-sponsors, comprising almost the entire Democratic caucus. The legislation is certain to pass the Democrat-majority House but is unlikely to be taken up in the Republican-led Senate.

“They’re testing the waters for the next time they are in the majority,” Vernuccio said.

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