Monday, February 6, 2012


By Dominic DiFrancesco

Article first published as The Attack on Employee Rights
 on Blogcritics.

Arizona is following on the heals of Wisconsin in it’s attacks on the middle class and working people in general by proposing legislation to bust public employee unions, including those protecting public safety workers which represent fire and police employees.

The proposed legislation would:
  • Make it illegal for government bodies to negotiate with employee groups.  Public safety unions would be included in the ban.
  • End the practice of automatic payroll deductions for union dues.
  • Ban compensation of public employees for union work.
Aside from trampling on the right of employees to organize, this is the beginning of a republican attempt to ban all employee unions in the state of Arizona.  Jan Brewer, the governor of Arizona, has apparently been pursuing this legislation since mid-2011, at the urging of the Goldwater Institute, a libertarian think-tank, and with the support of Wisconsin’s Republican governor Scott Walker.  Walker was the guest of honor at Goldwater’s annual dinner last November.  The Goldwater Institute also worked with the governor and other Arizona lawmakers to draft the package of bills now being considered by the legislature.  This package of bills is scheduled for a hearing before the Senate Government Reform Committee on Wednesday, February 8, 2012.

According to a report released on October 13, 2011, by the University of California Berkley’s Center for Labor Research and Education and Center for Wage and Employment Dynamics, shows that the Great Recession and the bursting of the housing bubble were the cause of state budget deficits, and not public sector workers or their unions.  Summing it up there is no link between the budget deficits and the public employee unions that they are essentially trying to dissolve.

America without unions would be a much darker place for the worker.  We would see many more minimum wage jobs, greater worker inequality, unsafe working conditions, little to no health insurance, and far less vacation time.  Because of the fights that unions have waged on behalf of their workers we all reap some of the benefits in higher wages, safer working conditions, and better benefits.  Eliminating or further hindering employee unions would serve to further the erosion of the middle class which both political parties claim to want to save.

When it comes to lower wage workers, according to The Center for Economic and Policy Research, unionization raises wages, provides health care and pension coverage for all workers, and provides the most benefits by far.  For workers who make less than 90% of the rest of the workforce, unionization raises wages by almost 21%.  Workers in the 15 lowest wage jobs are 25% more likely to have health insurance than the same worker in a non-union job.  The types of jobs included in this wage class are janitors, bus drivers, and teachers aids to name a few.  These same workers are 25% more likely to have pension plans than their counterparts who are not unionized.  These are the workers who are most likely to be disenfranchised.  At these wage levels, unions will not make these workers rich, but will provide a better standard of living and security over their non-union counterparts.

Without the collective bargaining rights that workers now have, public employees like our teachers, who to this day remain drastically underpaid would be far worse off than they are now.   The very people that we expect to protect us from fire and crime, and the teachers that we rely on to educate our children for this 21st century global economy are the ones that the Republican’s are striving to marginalize.

Unions are an easy target for politicians who want to blame state budget shortfalls on something other than unsustainable tax rates, the housing crisis, unemployment eroding the tax base, and public mismanagement.  The states problems are not public labor unions, but state governments themselves.  This is merely another attack on the working men and women of this country, and an attempt, under the guise of fiscal prudence, for their Republican party to destroy first, public employee unions and then private employee unions.

As Thom Hartmann, the intellectual, progressive radio show host, and best selling author says, right-to-work states are really right-to-work-for-less states.  Americans should be outraged by these attacks by state governments on the “working man”.  Indiana just joined the ranks of the right-to-work states and if Jan Brewer and the Republican party aren’t stopped Arizona could follow in their tracks.  If you are a working person, union or not, you should be concerned.  You could be next.