Iowa Unions Need Your Help

Unless you live in Iowa, there's little chance that you've heard about a fight being waged in the newly Democratic state house. The anti-union Right is painting the measure as a job-killing attack on the state's economy, elderly and virtues. It will not only send employers fleeing for the borders, but also cause a mass exodus of skilled and highly educated workers, steal critical tax money from social programs and force workers to * gasp * join unions. It's Armageddon, the plague, Big Brother and the Sopranos all wrapped up in one.

The proposal introduced in the Iowa Legislature is called "Fair Share," and that's all it asks. That all workers who receive union-negotiated benefits contribute to the cost of providing those benefits.

Under 60-year-old right-to-work (for less) laws, unions must represent all members of a bargaining unit equally regardless of if they are members of the union or not. This means that nonmembers, who do not pay union dues, must receive the same union benefits as their dues-paying counterparts. Failing to provide equal services and representation would land the union in federal court where they could be fined, sued, etc.

Is that fair?

Of course not, and it's shamelessly hypocritical. What do you think the Chamber of Commerce's response would be if employers were required to give something for nothing - say, like health care, or a pension? They'd go nuts!

And we're not talking about national or multinational institutions here. We're talking about one union worker being forced to subsidize the benefits of his or her freeloading coworker. Their jobs may be the same, their salaries may be the same, the benefits are the same, but only one worker is picking up the tab.

The Fair Share law is simply designed to bring fairness to Iowa factories, offices and other workplaces.

If it passes, Fair Share would require employees in some unionized workplaces to pay for the benefits they receive. Here's how it would work:

  • The state's Labor Commissioner would determine the amount of a fee to be collected by nonunion workers.

  • The fees would be limited to activities the union is required to perform for all employees under federal law.

  • The fees are not even mandatory for all unionized workplaces. Including fair share fees must be negotiated and agreed to by both the employer and the union.

  • Employees would have the opportunity to challenge the amount of fees if they believe they are being charged too much.

  • Workers would NOT be required to pay for a union's political or educational activities.

  • Workers would NOT be forced to join a union.

  • The law does NOT repeal the state's right-to-work law.

  • An employee who does not wish to join the union would NOT be fired.

  • It does NOT require businesses to have a union in their workplace.

  • It would NOT apply to workplaces where unions are not organized, which comprise about 87 percent of workplaces in the state.

So any guesses as to why the Right is in such a tizzy over this legislation? This isn't hyperbole. Here's how an op-ed in Tuesday's WSJ put it:

If the Iowa legislature wanted to chase jobs and employers out of the state, they couldn't come up with a better plan than underming [sic] right to work. Leo Troy, an economist at Rutgers University, has studied the issue and found that "right-to-work laws are strongly correlated with faster growth in jobs and personal income."

Many international and domestic companies won't consider locating a plant in a non-right-to-work state. Most of the new auto plants owned by Mercedes, Nissan, BMW and Honda are located in Alabama, South Carolina, Texas and other right-to-work locales. A recent survey by the National Right to Work Institute found that, between 1986 and 2006, 11 right-to-work states have added 104,000 auto manufacturing jobs, a 63% increase. The non-right-to-work states lost 130,000 auto jobs, or 15% over the same period.

Iowa has one of America's older populations, and the state's politicians have been fretting for years about the difficulty of keeping their young people from fleeing for better economic opportunities in other states. If Iowa Democrats placate Big Labor and join New Jersey, New York, Michigan and Ohio in all but forcing workers to join unions, they can expect an accelerating exit to warmer economic climes.

Now, I suppose you could find an economist to say just about anything if you look hard enough. Rutgers gray beard Leo Troy is no exception. He is notoriously anti-union and is often quoted by such organizations as the Heritage Foundation, the Heartland Institute, and the Media Research Center. Oh, yeah, and he was also one of about two dozen economists to sign a letter that "enthusiastically"endorsed Bush's 2003 "economic growth and jobs proposal," saying ...

It is fiscally responsible and it will create more employment, economic growth, and opportunities for all Americans. Moreover, it will improve corporate accountability and strengthen the nation's international competitiveness.

And we all know how well that turned out (for the richest 1 percent).

So here's a few statistics from the union side of the argument:

Beverly Goldberg of The Century Foundation writes:

...According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, "an average worker earns about $7,131 a year less than workers in free bargaining states ($30,656 versus $37,787)." This is in line with another finding reported by the Center for Policy Alternatives: "Across the nation, union members earn $9,308 a year more than nonunion members ($41,652 versus $32,344)."

The Center for Policy Alternatives goes on to say that

  • On average, Hispanic union members earn 50 percent ($224) more each week than nonunion Hispanics, and African Americans earn 31 percent ($156) more each week if they are union members.
  • Right-to-Work states have a poverty rate of 13.5 percent, compared with 12.2 percent in free bargaining states.
  • The infant mortality rate is 7.94 percent higher and the uninsured population rate is 15 percent higher on average in Right-to-Work states.
  • And Right-to-Work states spend on average $1,680 less per pupil in elementary and secondary school. The lack of spending results in lower teacher salaries and student test scores--average teacher salaries are $6,943 lower and composite ACT scores are 3.55 percent lower in Right-to-Work states.
  • More workplace deaths and injuries occur in states with Right-to-Work laws. According to calculations from Bureau of Labor statistics, the rate of workplace deaths is 41 percent higher in states with Right-to-Work laws.
  • And injured workers in those states have fewer benefits to help them recover physically and financially. In 1996, workers compensation benefits were 50 percent lower in Right-to-Work states than in free bargaining states.

So why do you think all those companies in the WSJ op-ed are moving to right-to-work (for less) states? Are they there to be wonderful corporate citizens that would improve the states' quality of life or are they there to exploit workers, resources and fatten their bottom lines?

If you live in Iowa, alleviate the gross injustice created more than six decades ago to weaken unions. Call your legislators and tell them that workers who benefit from union negotiated benefits should contribute their Fair Share.

Tags: fair share, Iowa, right-to-work, Teamsters (all tags)



Re: Iowa Unions Need Your Help

Good diary.

This is important.

I think I saw that you've got a Teamsters account over at Daily Kos.  You might want to email Miss Laura, she's trying to get a Tuesday night Labor and Class series started.  I'm certain that she'd be pleased to hear from you.  

We need to raise the salience of labor issues in the blogosphere. I grate my teeth sometimes reading the ignorant, anti-worker smack that diarist produce on Kos and other sites.

by ManfromMiddletown 2007-02-02 11:18AM | 0 recs
Re: Graphic Anatomy of a Victory--Minnesota

I too liked this diary, but aren't you supposed to be working on red and blue maps of Minnesota?  : )

by gunnar 2007-02-03 07:35AM | 0 recs
Grad School

maybe over the summer. Of course then is will be a matter of working.

by ManfromMiddletown 2007-02-03 12:25PM | 0 recs
Re: Iowa Unions Need Your Help

Great post Brother. I'm here in Pennsylvania where the laws aren't as bad but everyday is a fight for the rights of working families.

Good luck in Iowa and lets get the Employee Free Choice Act up for a vote in Congress, and any elected official who votes against it will be targeted in the next election.

John Foster
GCC/IBT Local 4C

by jfoster 2007-02-04 02:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Iowa Unions Need Your Help

Brother, Don't back down,do whatever it takes to stop it. All of us are in this together.      Fred K.       BAC Local #21 Chicago

by puresmoke 2007-02-04 06:55AM | 0 recs


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