Skip to main content

In fact, Republicans in the past two years have gone hog-wild heightening middle class fear and uncertainty. In addition to demanding cuts to programs crucial to middle class certainty like Medicare and Social Security, Republican lawmakers in GOP-controlled states across the country have passed laws prohibiting union security clauses in collective bargaining agreements. This results in weaker unions and lower benefits and wages, not just for union workers but for everyone in union insecurity states.  That creates financial insecurity, the worst kind of uncertainty.  

Apparently, uncertainty is a fate worse than death for a CEO. Billionaires bellyache about it constantly on TV, contending they must know, right now, whether next year’s tax rates will rise. Republicans bewail uncertainty, insisting CEOs must know, right now, whether they’ll get a tax holiday for overseas profits.

Their deep, abiding concern about the ill effects of uncertainty doesn’t extend, however, to the middle class. To Republicans and far too many billionaires and CEOs, weighing down workers with uncertainty about wages, health insurance and retirement is a fate well deserved.

In fact, Republicans in the past two years have gone hog-wild heightening middle class fear and uncertainty. In addition to demanding cuts to programs crucial to middle class certainty like Medicare and Social Security, Republican lawmakers in GOP-controlled states across the country have passed laws prohibiting union security clauses in collective bargaining agreements. This results in weaker unions and lower benefits and wages, not just for union workers but for everyone in union insecurity states.  That creates financial insecurity, the worst kind of uncertainty.

Union security clauses give labor organizations some financial certainty. They require any worker who benefits from a collective bargaining agreement to either join and pay dues or to decline membership and pay a smaller fee covering the cost of union services like negotiation and grievance resolution.

Some states – union insecurity states – forbid these clauses. There’s a total of 24 now, with GOP-controlled Michigan and Indiana joining this year. These governors say their efforts are intended to assist workers in union shops who don’t want to pay anything toward the cost of union services.

So, of course, these governors wouldn’t exclude a union, which would allow that union to retain security while denying it to all the rest. Right?<!--more-->

Wrong. That’s what Michigan and Indiana Republicans did. Indiana exempted government workers. Michigan deliberately omitted firefighters and police officers. In fact, one Republican lawmaker who voted to deny union security to Michigan Steelworkers and Auto workers and Iron workers tried unsuccessfully to have her husband’s union – prison guards – added to the exemptions. She wanted union security for her family, but she denied it to others.

The GOP in Michigan tried to position itself as the savior of workers, some sort of perverse Superman rescuing those who receive union benefits from the responsibility to help pay for union costs. Superheroes always win in the end, so Republicans should have no fear of a referendum in which voters get the chance to have their say on whether Michigan should be a union insecurity state. Right?

Wrong. The Michigan GOP barred a referendum by attaching an appropriation to the union insecurity bill, which under state law forecloses a ballot measure. That doesn’t make sense if Republicans really believe they’re helping workers. But maybe they remembered what happened next door in Ohio last year when voters smacked down a union busting law in a referendum vote of 62 percent to 38 percent.

Outlawing union security is union busting. That’s because federal law requires unions to represent everyone in a workplace, even those who don’t pay dues or fees. For example, if a worker who refused to pay dues or fees got fired for tardiness and demanded the union file a grievance challenging the dismissal, the union would have to do it. And pay the costs.

That erodes union funds, and ultimately bankrupts some unions. That’s the result sought by Republicans and union-busting, billionaire-funded groups like Americans for Greed – oh, sorry, they call themselves Americans for Prosperity. (Not to mention the other result they want – diminished support for Democrats, who unions typically back.) Republicans and Americans for Greed want to return to the robber baron days before a Democrat-controlled Congress passed the Wagner Act facilitating unionization in 1935.

For the next quarter century, unions and the nation’s great middle class blossomed. By 1960, a third of the nation’s workers were unionized. Unions bargained successfully for certainty for their members – for work weeks limited to 40 hours, for good wages, for safe workplaces, for benefits like health insurance and pensions. Labor organizations helped all workers because industries without unions strove to match union wages and benefits. In those days, families had the certainty required to buy a home, see a doctor and send kids to college.

But Republican-sponsored amendments to the Wagner Act weakened unions, including one in 1947 that allowed states to outlaw union security clauses. Now just under 12 percent of workers are represented. And the GOP is working on getting that number into the single digits, as it was in the days of robber barons.

Income inequality already matches that in the robber baron era. In the nearly 30 years between 1979 and 2007, income for the richest 1 percent grew 275 percent. For the bottom 20 percent, it grew just 18 percent. For the vast middle, wages stagnated, and in the past dozen years, their income – median income – declined 8.9 percent from $54,932 to $50,054.

Laws banning union security clauses will worsen that situation. In union insecurity states, the average workers’ wages are $1,500 a year lower and the typical worker is less likely to receive health insurance or a pension than their counterparts in states that give workers and employers the freedom to negotiate union security clauses.

Republicans in Michigan were gleeful last week. But Republicans in Ohio were jolly when they thought they smashed public sector unions there. An unintended consequence of Republicans attempting to destroy Ohio’s unions was that it prompted an angry workforce to organize politically to overturn the union-busting law, and that Ohio organization a year later helped re-elect union supporter Barack Obama.

The 12,000 who marched in Lansing last week to protest union busting will now make sure that Michigan’s union insecurity law has consequences for the Republicans who voted to deepen middle class uncertainty.

Originally posted to Leo W Gerard on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 08:15 AM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions.

Poll

Shouldn't the middle class be thanking Republicans for the gift of financial insecurity?

8%3 votes
91%33 votes

| 36 votes | Vote | Results

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site