By Al Ekblad
Today, all workers have the right to choose to stick together and collectively bargain with their employer for a better life. Even employees’ who have never exercised that right still have it. The key element to true rights is that those rights are there when you need them.
There aren’t always good jobs available. When workers join together they gain a voice on the job, the balance of power shifts to an equal footing and the road to making a bad job good takes shape.
In almost every developed country in the world employees receive more equitable pay, have more vacation and better protections than in the US. In almost every developed country they have larger unions.
Working families should know they have an enemy in the struggle for good jobs. It is a network of out of state, corporate-run groups – funded by dark money – that aims to get lawmakers to enter into blood pacts to pass corporate laws that harm families. Among them are bills like ‘right-to-work’ and ‘employee’s choice’. They are deceitful names, intended to make you favor them, but they’re all the same law intended to fool and divide us.
An accurate name is No Rights at Work (NR@W). That’s what it really is; an attempt to stack the deck further in favor of corporate profits. In states that have these laws, workers make an average of $5,000 less per year and it exists in 6 of the 10 states with the highest unemployment.
It bans the most common form of collective bargaining in Montana. NR@W says no worker has to pay a single penny to the union ever, regardless of how many union services they use. It forces unions into an unfunded legal mandate, ensures weak representation and eventual collapse.
Unions drive wages up. By destroying unions, it causes wages to plummet. NR@W led to the gutting of pension systems where workers contributed but ended up with no retirement security.
NR@W is a corporate power grab. Corporations would be able to ship more jobs overseas, turn fulltime jobs into part-time, prevent employees from any say in work schedules or safety, and make it easier for corporations to avoid paying taxes.
NR@W is bad for communities. It affects public safety by silencing fire fighters who negotiate for better equipment, training, and shift scheduling to adequately respond to emergencies. It silences the voice of nurses who work for quality patient care and adequate nurse-to-patient ratios. It prevents teachers and law enforcement officers from using their expertise to negotiate for measures that keep our children in school, safe online and in the community.
In 2011, NR@W was introduced in Montana as ‘worker’s freedom’. Employees know real freedom at work is about being able to balance life and work, attend a parent-teacher conference, take a loved one to the doctor, and have time for what matters in life without feeling like you might lose your job.
Unions are the builders and protectors of the middle class…the creators of the weekend, overtime, paid vacations, sick leave, job safety, child labor laws, public education, healthcare, secure pensions, and more. Good jobs are a Montana value. Low wages for higher corporate profits is not. No Rights at Work is unfair, unsafe, and unnecessary.
This Labor Day, the Montana AFL-CIO recommits itself to bringing greater fairness and prosperity to every family through improving the availability of quality jobs, the expansion of true workplace rights and freedom, research and education on issues that matter, and support for programs and initiatives that lift people up and give them a path to a better life.
Al Ekblad is the executive secretary of the Montana State AFL-CIO. On Labor Day every year Montana unions feed more than 9,000 people at events that are free and open to the public. Find the event nearest to you by visiting www.mtaflcio.org or go to the Montana State AFL-CIO on Facebook or Twitter