by Amanda Litvinov / photo by jeffeaton
We are living in the Scott Walker era. Sadly, it’s a time when extremist politicians, many backed by gazillionaires who put corporate interests first, are trying to make bashing workers’ rights the “in” thing to do. Gov. Walker stripped workers’ rights in Wisconsin, and Gov. John Kasich did the same in Ohio. Here’s the thing about bullies—they attract followers, and we’ve seen the effects of their bad behavior ripple through statehouses around the country.
But hard working middle class Americans have stood up for themselves in a big way. Educators were leaders in the citizens’ veto that repealed Ohio’s SB 5, which denied workers collective bargaining rights, and the people of Wisconsin have demanded a recall election of Walker, causing other state lawmakers to rethink their tactics and to go for quick jabs rather than the gut punch. The results are some downright nutty proposals:
- In South Carolina, a right to work state, there’s a proposal on the table specifying that government employers must post “Your Rights as a Worker in South Carolina” in at least 14 point font with the title in at least 48-point type. Failure to do so carries a $10,000 fine. Too bad that flyer can’t get a little closer to the truth: “Your Limited Rights as a Worker in a Right-to-Work State.”
- In Tennessee, SB 3631 would revise the definitions of certain disruptive conduct for no other reason than to specifically name unions and other employee organizations. The state’s definition of a riot, for example, would be a disturbance in a public place caused by “an assemblage of three or more persons, whether or not participating in any otherwise lawful activity, such as a union or employee organized event …”
- New Hampshire‘s GOP legislators take the prize for downright pettiness. Their proposed bill would eliminate the law that guarantees workers get to take lunch breaks. As reported in the Concord Monitor, the Tea Party lawmakers backing the measure said a law requiring lunch breaks is simply unnecessary–employers will surely do the right thing. Their arguments didn’t hold up well against their colleagues’ scrutiny last week.
Of course, the sobering truth is that the middle class will suffer even more if an anti-worker bully ends up in the White House. Mitt Romney openly supported Gov. Scott Walker and has promised to sign a national right-to-work law, which would in effect give all of America’s workers the right to work for less. All of the GOP presidential frontrunners have voiced support for right-to-work laws, whether at the national or state level.
There are still brave men and women in public office who come down squarely in favor of collective bargaining as a right worth protecting. “As long as I’m in the White House, I’m going to stand up for collective bargaining,” President Obama said to a crowd in Detroit in the fall. He even called out the bullies for their attacks on the middle class: “When I hear some of these folks trying to take collective bargaining rights away, trying to pass so-called right-to-work laws … I know it’s not about economics, it’s about politics.”
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