by Tim Reed
With the ramming through last month of so-called “right-to-work” legislation in Michigan, even over the protests of citizens and without public hearings or debates, extremist state lawmakers, corporate-funded lobbyists and those interested in weakening worker rights appear to be pushing this damaging legislation in other states, most notably Pennsylvania, Montana, Missouri and Ohio.
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The passage of the Michigan bill in the waning moments of the last legislative session laid plain the influence of wealthy corporate backers, such as the Koch brothers and Amway heir Dick DeVos, on this type of middle-class destroying legislation. Legislators attached a nominal funding amount to the legislation so that it could not be overturned through a citizens’ veto.
Why the desperate reach to pass this legislation? It has been shown time and time again that right-to-work laws:
- Lower wages;
- Decrease the likelihood of receiving job-based health insurance;
- Increase poverty rates;
- Lower education investments; and
- Increase workplace deaths
So, if it isn’t designed to benefit workers, why pass it? Simple answer: corporate profits.
By removing the ability for workers to join together and bargain for contracts, corporations and their backers, such as the Koch brothers and ALEC, can pay their workers less, increase their profits, and by extension their political influence.
With the fight in Michigan over for now, right-to-work backers have moved on to other state targets.
There have been rumblings in Pennsylvania that right-to-work may be coming, but Gov. Tom Corbett seems to believe that it would be a losing battle. According to The Morning Call, Corbett has said that Pennsylvania lacks the political will to pass such legislation:
There is not much of a movement to do it, and a lot of it has to do with the politics at the local level, at the county level and at the state level,” Corbett said during a regular appearance on the Dom Giordano radio program on WPHT-AM in Philadelphia. “Until I see a strong will to get legislation passed, we have a lot of other things that we have to get passed.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder took the same “not in my backyard” position until he wilted under the pressure of extremist legislators, DeVos and the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity.
In Montana, both GOP-controlled chambers of the legislature have expressed their support for passing “right-to-work,” but the state’s newly elected, and Montana Education Association-Montana Federation of Teachers supported Democratic governor, Steve Bullock, has said he would not sign any such legislation. Republicans in the state have now indicated that they may push the legislation directly to citizens for a vote because they would be unable to override the governor’s veto. Many union and worker advocates welcome the chance for voters to have their voice heard on the issue, as right-to-work has a strong history of failure when citizens are given a chance to actually vote on it.
Although Missouri seems unlikely to pass right-to-work legislation, it will certainly be debated in this state legislative session. The GOP has veto-proof majorities in both the House and Senate in Missouri, but Republican leadership believes they would lose the votes of many of their party’s less extreme members if it comes up and would be unable to override a veto from Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon. Nonetheless, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and other corporate backers are intent on pushing the law.
Ohio has been a hotbed for right-to-work rumors recently. Although citizens handily defeated a ballot measure that would have enshrined right-to-work in Ohio law by 61%-38% just last year, wealthy backers seem intent on ramming this damaging legislation down the throats of middle class families that simply don’t want it. Luckily for citizens of the state, Gov. John Kasich, who supported such legislation in the past, seems to have gotten the message and doesn’t appear to want to waste any more of his dwindling political capital on passing a bill that he has already failed on before.