COLUMBUS, Ohio — It’s official. The Ohio House and Senate have passed anti-union legislation that limits public-employee collective bargaining.
Gov. John Kasich intends to sign the bill into law.
The legislation bars strikes by public employees and limits collective bargaining to wages — but only if the public body chooses to bargain collectively. Otherwise, wages — as well as health care benefits, pensions and outsourcing — will be set unilaterally by public bodies.
The bill also limits payroll deduction for union political action committees and eliminates the use of seniority in determining layoffs.
In the works is a voter referendum for the fall that would overturn the legislation. The UTU, through the newly created UTU Collective Bargaining Defense Fund, will help in that effort.
A labor-law professor at Ohio State University told The New York Times, “The essence of collective bargaining is when you can’t agree on terms of a contract, you have a dispute resolution mechanism, by strikes or perhaps binding arbitration. Here, you have none of that. That’s not collective bargaining. I’d call it collective begging. It’s a conversation that ends whenever an employer decides that it ends.”
Said the president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees: “[The legislation] undermines our basic American values by attacking the right of Ohio workers to have a voice on the job.””
In Wisconsin, similar legislation was passed without Democrats voting; and is now being challenged in state courts.
Other states, where right-wing extremists control the legislature — as in Ohio and Wisconsin — are also considering Ohio- and Wisconsin-like anti-union legislation.
Maine Republican Gov. Paul LePage has ordered removal from the Maine Department of Labor of a 36-foot, 11-panel mural depicting the state’s and nation’s proud labor history.
Gone will be World War II icon Rosie the Riveter and other artwork depicting the role of the American worker in Maine and in U.S. history.
If that’s not sufficiently shameful, Gov. LePage ordered also that a Maine Department of Labor conference room, named for the nation’s first female secretary of labor, Frances Perkins, be changed.
Perkins, who helped guide New Deal policies, which included passage of the National Labor Relations Act, had, earlier in her career, encouraged workplace safety reforms following the deaths of 146 garment workers in the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist fire in New York in 1911.
Gov. LePage says he wants the state’s Department of Labor to be more “business friendly.”
The Maine Sun Journal newspaper reported that the governor acted after “some business owners” complained the mural and conference room name were hostile to business.
It is not known what the Perkins conference room will be renamed. But given the hostility of Maine’s governor toward working families and organized labor, it could well become the Ebenezer Scrooge Conference Room.
WASHINGTON — Speaking to labor’s rank-and-file via an AFL-CIO electronic town hall meeting last week, Vice President Joe Biden warned of “barbarians at the gate” of working families as attacks on collective bargaining and union membership move forward in numerous state legislatures.
“The only people who have the capacity — organizational capacity and muscle — to keep, as they say, the barbarians from the gate, is organized labor,” Biden said.
“And make no mistake about it: The guys on the other team get it. They know if they cripple labor, the gate is open, man. The gate is wide open.”
Encouraging organized labor to continue the fight against extremists who would destroy labor unions, Biden said, “You built the middle class. We don’t see the value of collective bargaining, we see the absolute positive necessity of collective bargaining.”
MADISON, Wis. — It may be only a temporary restraining order, but the decision of a Wisconsin judge last week to block the state legislature from revoking the collective bargaining rights of public employees reflects the controversial nature of the action and keeps it before ever-increasing citizen wrath.
Wisconsin Circuit Court Judge Maryann Sumi, appointed by former Wisconsin Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson, issued the temporary restraining order, barring Wisconsin’s secretary of state from publishing the law, effectively staying its implementation.
The challenge accuses Republican lawmakers — who control both the Wisconsin House and Senate — of violating the state’s requirement for open meeting requirements when they passed the law. It is alleged that because Democratic members of the legislature were not present, the open meeting requirements were violated.
An appeal to a higher court of the temporary restraining order is expected this week, and Judge Sumi also later could permit the law to be published following a hearing she scheduled to begin March 28.
Additionally, Wisconsin Republicans, who control the legislature, could bring the bill up again for a vote, now that Democratic members — who had fled in an earlier unsuccessful attempt to block the law’s passage — have returned.
“We highly doubt a Dane County judge has the authority to tell the legislature how to carry out its constitutional duty,” said Republican Sen. Scott Fitzgerald and Republican Rep. Jeff Fitzgerald.
The fight is far from over in Wisconsin or elsewhere.
It's not just Wisconsin. UTU members participate in a rally in Lansing, Mich., last week where the legislature there is considering bills whose intent is union busting. Similar rallies are taking place nationwide as union members and non-union members are speaking as one against the assault by right-wing extremists against collective bargaining rights.
The attack on public-employee collective bargaining rights by right-wing extremists is intended to destroy labor unions.
Union busting is something expected in the private sector; that’s why we have laws to level the playing field, with most differences settled at the bargaining table or in neutral arbitration — not through management dictatorship, as in Wisconsin and other states.
Should right-wing extremists succeed in destroying public-sector unions, the assault will spread to the federal government workforce and then the private-sector.
In my 45 years as a proud union member and officer, I have never witnessed such blatant attacks on working families.
The source of the attacks is corporations, financial institutions and wealthy investors bankrolling right-wing extremist lawmakers. A Supreme Court decision virtually removing caps on corporate political donations certainly helped the effort.
Many right-wing candidates use emotional issues such as gun control, school prayer and abortion to stir the emotions of union members, recruiting many to inadvertently participate in destroying the right of collective bargaining and, eventually, the economic security unions provide working families.
If labor-union survival and the economic survival of working families is going to be preserved, we in organized labor must respond to the attacks on our collective bargaining rights.
We must maintain our right to join a union, our right unify and our right to make political donations (if we so choose) through payroll deduction to those politicians supporting workplace democracy.
We cannot match the level of donations of the huge corporations and others financially backing the attacks on labor, but we have something our enemies don’t have — millions and millions of members who can vote for labor-friendly candidates.
The UTU Political Action Committee (UTU PAC) helps identify labor friendly candidates, helps finance their election campaigns, and helps to get out the vote for labor-friendly candidates on Election Day.
Please consider joining this voluntary effort and contribute to the UTU PAC. If you already are a member, please consider increasing your contribution. Our job security and the economic security of our families hang in the balance.
Let’s not forget that the attacks on labor we are witnessing today have not been seen in generations, and what is happening in Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin and elsewhere today are only the beginning if we don’t stand in solidarity to protect the rights labor fought so long, so hard and at such a great cost to achieve.
As expected, the Republican-controlled Wisconsin House of Representatives March 10 approved state senate passed legislation revoking collective bargaining rights for public employees.
The bill now goes to Republican Gov. Scott Walker who promises to sign it into law.
Noting the size and geographic scope of public protests against the legislative assault on collective bargaining rights, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has named Walker “Mobilizer of the Year” for the labor movement.
Trumka predicts the Wisconsin assault on collective bargaining rights will create a national backlash against extremist conservatives.
“Now they’re seeing what backlash really looks like,” Trumka said. “It’s like the old song goes, ‘’You ain’t seen nothing yet.'”
Recall efforts are expected against state lawmakers in Wisconsin and elsewhere who have backed legislation revoking collective bargaining rights for state employees.
In addition to revoking public-employee collective bargaining rights, the Wisconsin legislation cancels state collection of union dues from paychecks, and requires unions to hold annual representation elections.
The Republican controlled Wisconsin state senate, with all Democrats still absent, passed a bill late Wednesday, March 9, stripping from public employees almost all collective bargaining rights.
The vote was 18-1, with a lone Republican, Sen. Dale Schultz, voting “no.”
A vote in the Republican-controlled Wisconsin House is expected Thursday.
“In 30 minutes, 18 state senators undid 50 years of civil rights in Wisconsin,” said Democratic Senate Majority Leader Mark Miller. “Tonight, 18 senate Republicans conspired to take government away from the people. Tomorrow we will join the people of Wisconsin in taking back their government.” It was a half-century ago that the Wisconsin legislature gave public employees a right of collective bargaining.
Wisconsin’s union-busting bill had been stalled after senate Democrats fled the state three weeks ago to prevent a necessary quorum for the Republican majority to pass the legislation. But Republicans stripped from the legislation all spending provisions, which allowed the bill, under the state senate’s parliamentary procedures, to be voted on without a quorum.
The Associated Press reports that prior to the vote, Republicans had been considering concessions earlier offered by Gov. Scott Walker. But when, according to the Associated Press, union leaders and senate Democrats said the concessions weren’t enough, the Republican majority changed tactics, stripping the spending provisions from the bill and voting it out.
There was more bad news for union members and collective bargaining rights.
In Michigan, March 9, the senate passed legislation giving cities and school districts authority to terminate union contracts and end collective bargaining rights for public employees. A similar bill was previously passed by the Republican-controlled Michigan House of Representatives. Once the slight differences in the bills are resolved, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to sign the bill into law.
In Ohio, where the state senate already voted to strip collective bargaining rights from public employees, the Republican-controlled House is preparing to consider the bill.
In Indiana, a three-week standoff continues after 40 House Democrats fled the state to prevent a quorum and stall legislation revoking public-employee collective bargaining rights. A labor-rally, expected to draw some 20,000, is scheduled for the state capital Thursday.
And in Idaho, the House and Senate have passed legislation stripping collective bargaining rights for teachers. The governor is expected to sign it into law.
MADISON, Wis. — The Associated Press is reporting that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has softened his insistence that Wisconsin public employees give up nearly all collective bargaining rights.
Tens of thousands of Americans — union and non-union — have been demonstrating against union-busting legislation being considered in Wisconsin, and some $1 million has been contributed from across the country to help derail the legislation and fund a recall campaign against Republican senators supporting it.
The AP says Walker is now offering an olive-branch, saying in e-mails to Democrats that he would accept continuing bargaining over wages, mandatory overtime, performance bonuses and hazardous duty pay; and allow collective bargaining agreements to last up to two years, instead of the one-year limit in his original proposal.
Walker also reportedly is willing that unions would only have to vote to remain in existence every three years, instead of annually, as Walker initially proposed.
The AP also reports that state Democratic Sen. Bob Jauch “hopes” the compromise “would serve as a blueprint for future negotiations,” but Jauch reportedly called Walker’s compromise “still inadequate.”
Demonstrations continued in state capitals in Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin this week as extreme right-wing legislatures indicated no intention of giving ground in their union-busting efforts.
UTU International President Mike Futhey, meeting with AFL-CIO officials in Washington, D.C., urged UTU members and their families to continue their telephone calls to state Republican lawmakers in opposition to the legislation. “We are not going away. We will not forget. And thanks to the values of the union movement and our members, the UTU and the labor movement is stronger than ever,” Futhey said.
In Ohio, a vote by the Republican-controlled Senate Labor Committee is expected this week on legislation to end collective bargaining and strikes by public employees, and establish stiff fines for public employees who defy the no-strike ban, reports the Columbus Dispatch. A sizeable Republican majority in the House and Senate prevents Democrats from blocking the bill from passage once it exits the Senate Labor Committee.
In Wisconsin, Senate Democrats remained out of state, preventing a quorum to consider union busting legislation in that state. Senate Democrat Tim Cullen told the Madison Captial-Times that Democratic senators remain united by their top priority — preserving key collective bargaining rights for Wisconsin’s public employees.
In coordination with the AFL-CIO, more than 1,000 automated telephone calls were made to UTU members in that state, delivering a message from UTU State Legislative Director Tim Deneen urging them to contact lawmakers in opposition to the leiglsation.
In Indiana, enough House Democrats remain out of state for a second week in their continuing effort to deny Republicans a quorum to consider union-busting legislation in that state.
In Idaho, legislation is pending that would prohibit state employees from joining unions, and would also outlaw public-employee strikes.
In Arizona, Florida and Kansas, legislation is being considered to restrict public-employees from having donations to union political action committees (PACs) deducted from their paychecks. In fact, Arizona State Legislative Director Greg Hynes advises that the Arizona state legislature now is considering 20 different anti-union bills.
Said UTU Assistant President Arty Martin, “In my 45 years as a proud union member and officer, I have never witnessed such blatant attacks on working families.
“The source of the attacks is corporations, financial institutions and wealthy investors who have bankrolled right-wing extremists running for public office. A Supreme Court decision making it easier for corporations to contribute to political campaigns certainly helped the effort.
“If labor-union survival and the economic survival of all working families is going to be assured, we in organized labor must respond to the attacks on our collective bargaining rights. We must maintain our right to join a union and our right to make political donations, if we choose, through payroll deduction to politicians who support labor and our rights.”
The United Transportation Union Board of Directors Feb. 28 voted that funds from the UTU’s Education Fund be made available to assist union brothers and sisters in various states whose collective-bargaining rights, right to strike, union membership and check-off privileges for PAC contributions are under attack by extreme right-wing lawmakers.
UTU International President Mike Futhey, a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Council, is in Washington, D.C., this week meeting with federation President Rich Trumka and other AFL-CIO Executive Committee members on strategies and events that will be most effective in combating union-busting efforts of state legislatures.
The UTU will coordinate its activities with the AFL-CIO and other federation unions.
Also under discussion is creation of a nationwide fund to which other unions and union members might contribute to assist in the effort to combat union-busting.
Rallies in support of public-employee collective bargaining are being held in scores of cities across America to protest legislative efforts in Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin to revoke that right.
A new attack on public-employee collective bargaining was launched Feb. 23 in Idaho, reports UTU Idaho State Legislative Director George Millward. Idaho Senate bill 1024 would prohibit state employees from joining unions and outlaw strikes. The UTU will participate in an AFL-CIO meeting this weekend to formulate opposition, Millward said.
UTU members wishing to participate in a rally supporting collective-bargaining rights for public employee should contact their state legislative director, as no formal schedule exists. Most rallies, in dozens of states, are being coordinated by state branches of the AFL-CIO.
Meanwhile, newspaper editorials and opinion articles are exposing legislative efforts to strip away collective bargaining rights as union-busting tactics with no legitimate connection to state financial problems.
Here is a sampling:
Nationally syndicated columnist Eugene Robinson:
“It has long been common for unions to accept better health and pension benefits in lieu of higher salaries — in effect, taking the money later rather than sooner. Now that these IOUs are coming due, Wisconsin wants to renege. I thought Republicans were supposed to believe that a contract is a contract, sacred and inviolate. Guess not. This is pure, unadulterated union busting.”
Stanford University law professor William B. Gould IV, a former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board:
“It is downright obscene to strip workers of unions while deficit-spending tax breaks to the rich are being handed out as they are in Wisconsin. As the United States has argued for South Africa, Poland and now Egypt, unions are a basic part of democratic society. Yet that is the principal under attack by Gov. Walker in Wisconsin now. The answer is not to destroy the democratic fabric and the political opposition, but rather to engage in dialogue.”
Linda Kaboolian, lecturer in public policy at Harvard:
“Gov. Walker isn’t interest in saving money. He’s interested in crippling the unions that didn’t support him last fall.”
New York Times editorial:
“Republican talk of balancing budgets is cover for the real purpose of gutting the political force of middle-class state workers, who are steady supporters of Democrats and pose a threat to a growing conservative agenda. Conservative leaders in most states with strong unions have in the past generally made accommodations with organized labor, often winning support on social issues in return. That changed this year after wealthy conservatives poured tens of millions of dollars into the election campaigns of hard-right candidates.”
Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page:
“Without the right to collective bargaining, a union is little more than a social club.”
Gallup poll survey:
“While the public has ambivalent feelings toward public sector unions, they say they oppose any move by their state to eliminate collective bargaining rights by about a 2-to-1 margin.”
Madison, Wisc.,Capital Times editorial:
“Gov. Walker has made too many budget decisions not with an eye toward fiscal responsibility but with an eye toward rewarding his political benefactors. Now the governor says that Wisconsin needs to end collective bargaining for public employees and teachers. This is simply absurd. This is not about the money. This is not a fiscal crisis. This is a political crisis. And Walker has the power to resolve it by refocusing on fiscal issues, as opposed to pursuing the political goal of breaking unions.”
Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein:
“Unions — through collective bargaining, strikes and other means — give workers power. They also make negotiations less lopsided … unions tend to see their constituents as not just their own members, but the ‘working class’ broadly defined. That’s why you’ll find labor’s fingerprints on everything from the two-day weekend to Medicare to the Civil Rights Act of 1965 — none of which require you to flash a union card before you can benefit from them.”
Denver Post columnist Mike Littwin:
“If you read the [Wisconsin] bill … the union busting is in pretty plain language. The union can only negotiate salary — but, it turns out, any raises above inflation must be approved by [voter] referendum. You try putting your next raise up for a vote and see how it works out. Under the bill, employers can’t collect dues. And it’s worse than that. Every year, under the bill, union members would have to vote to keep the union certified. You can figure this out. If the union can’t bargain, why would you keep voting to certify it — and also vote to keep paying your dues?
“This comes on the heels of last year’s Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, making it easier for corporations to contribute to political campaigns. If I understand the law, the ruling said, in effect, that corporations were people. And public-sector employees? The jury is still out.”
A senior Ohio Democrat promises that if Republicans there are successful in passing legislation to revoke collective bargaining rights for public employees, a ballot initiative would be drafted to repeal the law in the next general election, reports the Columbus Dispatch newspaper.
In Wisconsin, Democrats Feb. 22 remained absent from the state, leaving Republicans without a lawful quorum to pass similar legislation revoking collective-bargaining rights for public employees. Republicans hold a majority in both chambers of the legislature.
The South Central Wisconsin Federation of Labor, representing 45,000 union members in the Wisconsin capital of Madison, said Feb. 22 it is considering a “general strike” if the bill becomes law.
Wisconsin state Rep. Mark Pocan, a Democrat, said, “In one fell swoop, Gov. Walker is trying to institute a sweeping radical and dangerous notion that will return Wisconsin to the days when land barons and railroad tycoons controlled the political elites in Madison.”
In Indiana, state House Democrats are boycotting a legislative session considering similar legislation (HB 1468), vowing to remain away and prevent a quorum until they have assurances from Republicans that the bill will not be brought forward when they return, according to the Indianapolis Star newspaper. Republicans hold a majority in both legislative chambers.
Indiana Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, who supports the legislation, told the newspaper he would not send state police to “round up” the Democrats because they have every right to deny Republicans a quorum to do business.”
In Ohio, the Senate Labor Committee is considering legislation — SB 5 — to revoke collective bargaining rights for public employees amid growing protests against the bill. Some 15,000 demonstrated in Columbus, Ohio’s capital city, Feb. 22, as the Republican-controlled Labor Committee heard testimony on the bill.
Because Republicans hold a majority in both chambers of the Ohio legislature, and because of the size of the Republican majority, Ohio Democrats cannot prevent a quorum by boycotting the legislative session. No date has been set for a vote on SB 5.
Should the legislation pass in Ohio, Democratic Chairman Chris Redfern told the Columbus Dispatch, “We will repeal it at the ballot box, and that will happen. That is the great fear the Republican Party has right now, because of the overreach they’re playing out right now.”
Also speaking out was JoAnn Johntony, president of the Ohio Association of Public School Employees, who told the Columbus Dispatch, “I believe Gov. Kasich decided he wants to squash unions and found a creative way to do it, but he has to realize that we’ve fought this battle before and he will not stop us because we will fight to the very end.”
An Ohio Senate Republican, Timothy J. Grendell, also sounded a warning over the legislation. The Columbus Dispatch reported Grendell said the bill could end up costing the state money and should scare conservatives worried about private contracting rights.
“You’re opening up a Pandora’s Box to the principle that government can interfere with private contract rights when it suits government’s purpose,” Grendell told the newspaper. “If you’re a conservative or a Tea Party person, you should be greatly concerned about that concept because today’s collective bargaining agreement could be tomorrow’s private business contract. I guarantee you litigation will be more expensive than collective bargaining.”
Back to Wisconsin, the Capitol Times newspaper said in an editorial that Gov. Scott Walker, the architect of legislation to outlaw collective bargaining by public employees, “is making political choices, and they are designed not to balance budgets, but to improve his political position and that of his [Republican] party.”
UTU protest pickets in Madison, Wisc. Pictured, from left, are retired Local 590 member Dan Stanley; Ben Deneen, GO 261 General Chairperson James Nelson; Local 590 Vice Chairperson Leath Sheppard; and Wisconsin State Legislative Director Tim Deneen and wife, Susan.