Teamsters fight back against ‘right-to-work’

The Teamsters are planning to mobilize and campaign against right-to-work laws (RTW), both on the federal level and in western states, the Southern California Teamster reports.

To make sure members know how to contact their lawmakers, the paper has published the names, office suite numbers in D.C., and phone numbers of every single U.S. representative in Southern California, Hawaii, Nevada and Arizona.

The concerns are state RTW laws and a national RTW bill, introduced – again – by virulently anti-worker Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, and Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C.

“As you read this, every Teamster representative from every local in California and Hawaii is part of a comprehensive strategy program which will be rolling out to every member in every workplace soon,” the paper said.

Nevada, though heavily unionized, is a RTW state. So is Arizona. So are 26 other states, most recently Kentucky and Missouri, though a labor-backed referendum push may stop the Missouri law until voters get a say on it. New Hampshire lawmakers just defeated a GOP-backed RTW law there, as it failed to get a needed majority in the GOP-run House.

“For starters,” the paper says, “the object is to tell lawmakers about the importance of shooting down the legislation amending the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and the Railway Labor Act.”

Those two laws cover most workers, and virtually all private sector workers, in the U.S. In 1947, the Republican-run 80th Congress extensively rewrote, and weakened, the NLRA’s worker protections. One provision the GOP inserted that year said every state could enact so-called “right-to-work” laws.

RTW laws, which are really “right to work for less” laws, ban unions and firms from including “employment security clauses” in collective bargaining contracts. The clauses mandate that the workers covered by the contract must either join the union or pay “agency fees,” that cover the cost of making sure their pay, benefits and rights are guaranteed. This includes bargaining and administration of contracts and maintaining grievance proceedures.

RTW laws, including King’s and Wilson’s bill, are “scurrilous attempts to chainsaw the ability of unions to effectively and strongly enforce its contracts” by robbing unions of needed resources.

RTW laws, including the proposed national RTW law, have been a favorite big business and radical right cause ever since the 1947 congress.

The Southern California Teamster noted they’re now a particular preference of “working peoples’ enemies” including the right wing Koch brothers, the Olin Foundation, the Heritage Foundation and “what a surprise, the Walton Family Foundation ,” which puts out in front of its WalMarts “holiday bins so customers can contribute to its beleaguered employees’ chance for Christmas goodies.”

“This legislation is not just dangerous for unions and their members. Contrary to the economic boon promised by the RTW proselytizers, enacting RTW decreases wages for both union and non-union workers alike and jeopardizes worker protections. The wage difference, in the unionists’ favor, is 15 percent in non-RTW states, and job safety protections are stronger.

“Possibly most important, by maintaining a formidable union presence, evidenced by high density, organized labor is at the policy table affecting the rights of every worker within the given jurisdiction,” the paper says.

“Dilution of power” by RTW laws “translates to lower wages and an influx of low wage jobs, as well as less worker protections for both union and non-union workers” along with less health insurance coverage and higher workplace fatality rates.

“The alleged rights this legislation claims to confer are rights we can all live without: The right to work for less and without representation.”


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.