There’s a basic, historical misunderstanding at the root of modern Republican philosophy. A little fact that seems to get overlooked. It’s not their insistence that the road to fascism begins with good health care. It’s not even the pretense that President Obama somehow masterminded an economic collapse, bank bailout, and massive deficit weeks, months or years before he came into office. No, the incident that the GOP has let slip is a little more basic.
The South lost.
See, Republicans seem to have mistaken “wage slavery” for … that other kind of slavery. They must have, because anyone who understood that workers are employees, and not property, would recognize that workers have rights. Not just some rights, not a neatly restricted little subset of rights, but the same rights as the people who employ them. They would recognize that the rights of an employer do not include the ability to abridge the rights of an employee.
Only they don’t. When you see Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum or John Boehner railing against government overstep on religion, conscience, what-have-you, you can be 100 percent certain that their concern is that somewhere, somehow an employer might have to allow his employees to do something that, you know, miffs them. That millions of employees might be forced to do without needed health care … doesn’t enter into the equation.
It’s easy to see how employers might be confused, considering all the love being lavished on them by both parties, and with the paeans being sung to them as magical “job creators.” And hey, we already pretty much handed over that fourth amendment to them, what with peeing in a cup or being able to fire people because of an old photo on Facebook. Republicans have been busy reinforcing that lesson by insisting that anyone who collects so much as an unemployment check should be subject to any rules they want to set. It’s no wonder that the line between handing someone a paycheck, and holding someone’s title, should have gotten blurred.
So consider this a primer to the confused American business owners and executives who might have listened just a little to long to all that sweet praise.
As an employer, you have the absolute right to religious freedom. Attend any church, temple, synagogue or reading room you like. Give as you feel obligated. Worship as you please. Place on yourself any restriction in diet, activity or anything else that you feel is in keeping with your beliefs … but only on yourself. You don’t get to impose these restrictions on your employees.
Your employees are separate from you. Not only that, they are equal to you in rights, no matter how unequal you may be in income. You do not get to tell them who to vote for. You do not get to tell them who they can love. You do not get to use your religious beliefs as an excuse to limit their health care.
No matter how strong your personal faith, your employees are not obligated to live according to those beliefs, expressly because they are personal. You may find it frustrating, but your employees have just as much right to their own beliefs as you do to yours, and whether you pay them pittance on an assembly line or six figures as a manager, you have zero right to carve off a slice of their freedom. The direction of the pay arrow has no effect on who gets to dictate to who.
If the government was telling you, as an individual, that you had to use birth control, that would be a violation of your rights. That’s not happening. They’re just saying that you don’t get to make that decision for the people who work for your company. Because, really, you don’t own them.
If you’re still mad; if you’re upset that healthcare has to be funneled through employers at all … there’s a cure for that. It’s called “single payer.”
By: Mark Sumner, Daily Kos, February 19, 2012
Gov. Jan Brewer is pushing a radical anti-union bill that makes Wisconsin’s law look lax.
Not content to let Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ohio’s John Kasich get all the fame (and recall elections, and ballot referenda) for their attempts to curtail union workers’ rights, a new crop of GOP governors and state legislators have jumped into the fray and proposed their own anti-union bills in recent weeks.
Along with South Carolina’s Nikki Haley and Indiana’s Mitch Daniels, Arizona’s Jan Brewer, not content with making her state the least friendly to immigrants and people of color, has decided to get in on the union-busting action as well, introducing a bill that makes Walker’s and Kasich’s attacks on public workers look mild.
Brewer, the Republican left in charge of the state after President Obama tapped Janet Napolitano to be his secretary of Homeland Security, has been planning anti-union moves since last spring with the backing of the Goldwater Institute. (Named for Barry Goldwater, the think tank pushes for “freedom” and “prosperity” — as long as it’s not the freedom or prosperity of state workers.)
It’s not just Arizona’s right-wingers who are pushing Brewer to beat up on unions – John Nichols at the Nation notes that Walker may have had a hand in helping push an anti-labor agenda, and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is involved. In a speech to the right-wing policy shop behind many of these anti-union bills last year, Brewer complained about her inability to fire government employees and supervisors’ difficulty “disciplining” workers.
This week, the Republicans in the state Legislature introduced moves that would make collective bargaining for public workers completely illegal. Here, we break down what you need to know about Brewer and the GOP’s anti-worker agenda.
1. The bill would go further than Wisconsin’s, making collective bargaining completely illegal for government workers.
SB 1485, the first of the bills to take on union rights, declares that no state agency can recognize any union as a bargaining agent for any public officer or worker, collectively bargain with any union, or meet and confer with any union for the purpose of discussing bargaining.
While Wisconsin’s law bans public employees from bargaining over everything but very small wage increases, Arizona’s bill bans collective bargaining outright and refuses to recognize any union as a bargaining unit. Existing contracts with unions will be honored, but not be renewed if this bill passes.
2. Arizona includes police and firefighters in its ban.
Scott Walker famously exempted public safety workers — police officers and firefighters — from his attacks on union workers, but many of them joined the protests anyway. In Ohio, John Kasich’s bill, overturned by his constituents this past November, included the police and firefighters in its elimination of bargaining rights. Now Brewer and her legislative compatriots have decided that police and firefighters should lose their bargaining rights as well.
Arizona, as Dave Dayen at FireDogLake noted, “is changing to a purple state because of an extreme legislature which first demonized immigrants, in what could start a backlash among the Hispanic community. Now, flush with that success, the legislature will demonize police and firefighters. It’s not exactly a textbook strategy for a lasting majority.”
Walker’s attempt to divide and conquer public sector unions by attacking some and not others didn’t work; perhaps that’s why later attempts at similar bills didn’t bother giving special treatment to public safety workers. But as we saw in Ohio, the support of the traditionally conservative police and firefighters’ unions helped unite the state’s voters and bring out record numbers to vote down the bill. Arizona seems to be asking for trouble by targeting police and firefighters with this bill.
3. The state would ban government employers from deducting union dues automatically from a worker’s paycheck.
Not content with banning bargaining, the Arizona legislature is also out to make sure unions can’t collect any money for the work they do. SB 1487 inserts language into existing law that says “This state and any county, municipality, school district or other political subdivision of this state may not withhold or divert any portion of an employee’s wages to pay for labor organization dues.”
This move obviously is aimed to hit unions right in their wallets — taking away the funding they need in order to do more organizing, and carry out political activity.
4. Arizona would ban the government from allowing employees to do union work on company time.
Laura Clawson at Daily Kos notes that in addition to the other measures, Arizona’s Republicans also want to eliminate “release time,” a practice “in which union stewards and other representatives are allowed to spend work time on certain union functions, such as contract negotiations or handling grievances.”
Union stewards and representatives are full-time employees who take on additional responsibilities on top of their jobs—a move like this makes it harder for them to carry out those responsibilities to their fellow workers without fear of facing sanctions from their bosses. Specifically banned by the bill, SB 1486, are “activities that are performed by a union, union members or representatives that relate to advocating the interests of member employees in wages, benefits, terms and conditions of employment.”
5. Brewer also wants to eliminate any job protections for workers, buying them off with pay raises.
Brewer plans to offer public workers their first pay raise in years, a 5 percent increase. The tradeoff? They have to opt out of job protections some of them currently enjoy, including the right to appeal demotions and protection from being fired without cause – they have to become at-will employees.
Like most “merit pay” arrangements, this one sounds good at first — hard-working people will get raises! — but workers see right through it. Odalys Hinds, who works in the state health lab, told the Arizona Republic, “No way will I do it. I won’t take it — it basically would take away our rights. My retirement’s gone up. My insurance has gone up. There’s going to come a day when I’m going to have to pay the state to work.”
6. Arizona is already a “right-to-work” state
The kicker to all this? Arizona workers already enjoy fewer protections than those in Ohio and Wisconsin. Arizona is a so-called right-to-work state, where unions cannot collect a fair share of the direct costs of representation from workers who opt out of joining the union — even though the union is compelled to represent all workers.
This means that unlike the Midwestern states, Arizona has few union members already and that means there are fewer people who are likely to be outraged and moved to protest by attacks on collective bargaining. Yet Brewer, the Goldwater Institute and the Republicans in the Legislature aren’t content with what they have and are moving to make public sector unions all but irrelevant, by making it nearly impossible for them to do their jobs.
Arizona now has a strong Republican majority in the Legislature, and so barring a change of heart by a handful of GOPers, the anti-union measures are likely to pass. But if Brewer continues to antagonize working people in her state, John Nichols notes, Arizona does have something else in common with Wisconsin — provisions that allow for the recall of the governor and state legislators, provisions that were used just last year to remove Russell Pearce, the state senator responsible for the state’s hideous anti-immigrant law, from office.
Memo to Alabama: George W. Bush was right.
The former president, making a too-late push for what could have been a game-changing, bipartisan immigration reform law, noted that immigrants now here illegally make an important contribution to the economy. They do the jobs Americans can’t or won’t do.
Opponents disagreed, arguing that the undocumented workers were stealing jobs that should go to Americans—jobs like picking fruit for low wages in the hot sun. That was a questionable claim when the economy was better, but as Alabama farmers are now learning, Bush’s statement is correct even now, when Americans are working for far less pay in jobs for which they are way over-qualified, just to have a job.
In June Alabama passed a draconian immigration law—most of which is still in place, even while courts decide its constitutionality—that has driven many immigrants from the state. The result has not been a wave of grateful unemployed teachers and skilled workers, eager to be underpaid for difficult manual labor. Instead, at the San Francisco Chronicle reports:
The agriculture industry suffered the most immediate impact. Farmers said they will have to downsize or let crops die in the fields. As the season’s harvest winds down, many are worried about next year.
In south Georgia, Connie Horner has heard just about every reason unemployed Americans don’t want to work on her blueberry farm. It’s hot, the hours are long, the pay isn’t enough, and it’s just plain hard.
“You can’t find legal workers,” Horner said. “Basically, they last a day or two, literally.”
There are a number of lessons here. One is that there are surely elected officials and people in the business community who are using the recession to roll back all kinds of hard-fought rights for workers, cutting pay, eliminating job security, and drastically reducing or zeroing out benefits. Another is that while Americans don’t want to do farm work for low wages, they also don’t want to pay higher prices for food harvested by workers paid a decent salary. That’s not an argument for abusing undocumented workers, but it’s also not an argument for scaring foreigners out of the state so locals can have their bad jobs.
What’s remarkable is that some of the same people who scream about illegal immigrants taking American jobs here in the United States are quieter when it comes to foreigners abroad taking what could be American jobs here. Outsourcing of manufacturing jobs increases corporate profits, but adds to the unemployment rate domestically. Those are jobs American will do. If that anti-immigrant worker crowd is genuinely concerned about retaining U.S. jobs, they should focus on bringing back the outsourced jobs—not evacuating the foreign workers.
By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and World Report, October 24, 2011
The history of the American labor movement is crowded with losing battles and crushing disappointments. The men and women who have fought for workers’ rights, often against tremendously long odds, have all too often suffered defeat and humiliation, only finding consolation in the idea that their efforts perhaps succeed in awakening a bit of public sympathy for their plight, inching their larger cause forward in unseen ways.
Yesterday unions and Democrats fell just short of victory in Wisconsin, winning two of six races to recall GOP state senators, in a battle that had unexpectedly emerged as ground zero in a national class war, partly over the fate of organized labor. There’s no way to sugar-coat it: Unions and Dems failed in their objective as they defined it, which was to take back the state senate, put the brakes on Scott Walker’s agenda, and let the nation know that elected officials daring to roll back public employee bargaining rights would face dire electoral consequences.
But nonetheless, what they failed to accomplish does not diminish what they did successfully accomplish. The fact that all these recall elections happened at all was itself a genuine achievement. The sudden explosion of demonstrations in opposition to Walker’s proposals, followed by activists pulling off the collection of many thousands of recall signatures in record time, represented an undiluted organizing triumph. At a time of nonstop media doting over the Tea Party, it was a reminder that spontaneous grassroots eruptions of sympathy and support for a targeted constituency are still possible and can still be channeled effectively into a genuine populist movement on the left. At a time when organized labor is struggling badly and GOP governors earn national media adulation by talking “tough” about cracking down on greedy public employees, what happened in Wisconsin, as John Nichols put it, amounted to “one of the largest pro-labor demonstrations in American history,” one that carried echoes of the “era of Populist and Progressive reform in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.”
What’s more, no matter how many times conservatives falsely assert that labor and Dems subverted the popular will by fighting Walker’s proposals, in reality precisely the opposite happened.
By staging a fight that drew national attention, labor and Wisconisn Dems revealed an unexpected level of national sympathy for public employees, and, yes, for unions and their basic right to exist. This alone was an important achievement, flummoxing pundits who had confidently predicted that public employeees would make easy public scapegoats for the national conservative movement in dire economic times.
Even if Dems fell short of their objective in Wisconsin, what happened was, in fact, a referendum on Walkerism — one that conservatives lost in the mind of the broader public. Nate Silver Tweeted last night: “Dems would be silly to not proceed with the Walker recall based on tonight. The results project to a toss-up if you extrapolate out statewide.” I don’t think Dems will go through with it, but Silver’s larger point is intact: Walkerism triggered a strong public backlash that can’t be dismissed and will remain a factor. As Markos Moulitsas noted, the Wisconsin battle enabled Dems to hone a class-based message about GOP overreach that is showing some success in winning back white working class voters, with potential ramifications for 2012. The national outpouring of financial support for the Dem recall candidates showed that there’s a national liberal/Dem constituency that can be activated by Dems who don’t flinch from taking the fight to opponents with unabashedly bare-knuckled populism.
Will the national support for public employees in polls slow the drive of conservatives and GOP governors to roll back bargaining rights nationally? Probably not. Conservatives will point to yesterday’s events, with some justification, as proof that governors might not suffer direct electoral consequences in response to radical union-busting policies. But what Wisconsin showed us is that the broader public simply isn’t on their side. Let’s hope national Dems take heart.
The events in Wisconsin were a blow to organized labor. But the simple fact is that labor and Dems came within a hair of realizing an objective that was dismissed at the outset of this fight as a delusional lefty pipe dream. Wisconsin won’t chasten the left; Wisconsin will embolden it. And those who poured untold amounts of time and energy into the Wisconsin effort shouldn’t regret their efforts for a second.
By: Greg Sargent, The Plum Line-The Washington Post, August 10, 2011
On the same day that Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-public employee law takes effect in Wisconsin, public workers in Ohio can celebrate a victory in the battle for democracy.
We Are Ohio, the group leading the effort to repeal Ohio Senate Bill 5, the anti-collective bargaining bill, delivered a record number of nearly 1.3 million signatures to the Ohio Secretary of State today, backed by a “Million Signature March” parade of more than 6,000 people, retired fire trucks, motorcycles, a drum line and bagpipes.
“This is the people’s parade,” said We Are Ohio spokesperson Melissa Fazekas in a news conference after the parade. “You are truly one in a million.”
Ohio’s Veto Referendum
Both Ohio and Wisconsin have had union-busting legislation forced on them by Governors John Kasich and Scott Walker in the name of fiscal austerity, and both states saw massive protests in response to the attacks on workers’ rights and public services. The electoral methods of recourse, however, differ between the states.
Ohio is one of 21 states that allow for veto referendums. A veto referendum is a unique mechanism that allows a new law to be placed on a ballot for voters to either ratify or reject if enough signatures are collected within the statutory timeframe.
About 231,000 valid signatures are required to put the collective bargaining law on the November ballot as a referendum. The 1,298,301 signatures were delivered in 1,502 boxes carried by a 48-foot semi-truck. The Ohio Secretary of State’s office must now sort the signatures by county, count them and distribute them to county boards of elections for validation.
According to the Toledo Blade, “Just the filing of the petitions Wednesday will keep Senate Bill 5 from taking effect on Friday as scheduled. If at least 231,149 of the signatures are determined to be valid, the law will remain on hold until the results of the election are known. If voters reject the law, it will never take effect.”
Wisconsin’s Recall Elections
In Wisconsin, six Republican state senators face recall elections over their vote to abolish public employees’ collective bargaining rights. Three Democratic state senators have also been targeted for recall, in response to their decision to leave the state during the battle that ensued over the controversial legislation. Primary elections for the recalls will take place July 12 for the Republicans and July 19 for the Democrats, with general elections following in August. If the Democrats hold onto their seats and three of the six Republicans are recalled, the state Senate will flip to a Democratic majority, loosening the Republican stronghold on the state.
While papers cannot be filed to recall Walker until January 2012, United Wisconsin, the grassroots organization behind the gubernatorial recall movement in Wisconsin currently lists 189,321 pledges for recall. To prompt a recall election, 540,206 signatures would be required.
“What we saw today in Ohio was a response of millions of people saying ‘no’ to Gov. Kasich’s agenda and standing up for bargaining rights and workers’ rights, because we don’t have the ability to remove him,” said Kris Harsh, spokesperson for Stand Up for Ohio.
Both Mechanisms from the Progressive Era
Ohio does not have a recall provision, thus the referendum drive. But both referendums and recalls are progressive tools that date back to the early 1900s. According to the Ohio Historical Society, “Progressives argued that the referendum made the American political system more democratic.” Referendums were approved as an amendment to the Ohio Constitution in 1912, and the Wisconsin Constitution was amended to allow for the recall of elected officials just one year after Robert “Fighting Bob” La Follette’s death, in 1926.
La Follette fought for progressive ideals — such as recalls and open primaries — to empower average people at a time when corporate bosses ruled the political scene. La Follette’s fight was against railroad barons and agricultural monopolies, while Ohio battled the Standard Oil Trust.
The overwhelming outpouring of people standing up for their rights and for their communities in Wisconsin and Ohio today indicate that the progressive tools given to Americans by fighters like La Follette are just as relevant and necessary now as they were more than 100 years ago.
By: Jessica Opoien, Center for Media and Democracy, June 29, 2011