Tuesday, November 30, 2010

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From time to time you see those political ads on various websites that have keywords like "stop" or "prevent" or whatever. Often they are going on about Obama or "the left" or "Big Labor" or "environmental radicals" and so on.

I sometimes check them out because they can - and sometimes do - tip me to something I hadn't heard about that I should be in favor of.

Recently, the ad I've noticed shows a scowling Obama with the text "Tell the Senate to Oppose Obama's Latest Big Labor Scheme" which flips to "Police and Firefighters Forced to join a union?" The word "Forced" is in bold red letters. So I checked and this is what I found.

Turns out the ad is from the National Right to Work Committee, a well-known right-wing anti-worker outfit, griping about what they labeled the "Police and Firefighter Monopoly Bargaining Bill." (It's actual name is the "Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act of 2009" - so much for the "latest scheme" part. It's only sponsor is Harry Reid. Oh, and it's a re-introduced version of the "Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act of 2007" - so much for the "Obama" part.)

What the bill does is simply to extend some, emphasize some, of the protections of federal labor law to public safety workers - generally, police and firefighters - employed by state and local governments. In a majority of states, such workers already have the legal right to form unions and engage in collective bargaining. In others, mostly in the South and the mountain states, they don't. One example of the latter is North Carolina, where state law forbids state or local government from signing contacts with any labor group representing any public employees. The bill would override such laws to the extent they affect public safety workers.

But when I say "some" protections, I mean it: The bill specifically bans any "labor organization" from engaging in a
sickout, work slowdown, strike, or any other organized job action that will measurably disrupt the delivery of emergency services and is designed to compel an employer ... to agree to the terms of a proposed contract. [Section 6(a)]
In other words, yes, you can have a union and yes you can have collective bargaining but no, you have no means beyond requests to obtain any goals. Saying you can have a union but you can't engage in any job action is like saying yes, you can have health insurance but it comes with a $25,000 deductible.

Still, I suppose that anything that would chip away at anti-worker practices and policies is to the good. Again, however, there's an important word, in this case "would." There actually appears to be little chance the bill will come up and no action on it has been taken since it was reported out of committee in April.

So why the ads? It appears to be little more than the typical right-wing drum-beating, trying to get the base (or at least some part of it) all riled up about some phony crisis or horrible portent of imminent doom. Besides, with the state of the economy, continued unemployment, and people desperate for any work they can find, the right-to-workers (who have as much to do with the rights of workers as the right-to-lifers have with the rights of living people) haven't had a whole lot to do of late and a little "Big Labor"- and "Obama"-bashing are always good to put a few fund-raised bucks in the ol' pro-corporate bank account.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this article and clearing up ALL the lies that the right-wing has been posting against this bill. We have been trying to get this bill passed for 12 years now, it very well may happen this time around.Once again thank you!

LarryE said...

You're welcome. I expect it came through in the post that the bans on labor actions leave me having a hard time getting enthusiastic about the bill, but again it would be something better than what exists now.

Still, I appreciate your comment that "it may well happen this time around." That is another notion I'm afraid I don't share, but I'd be quite pleased to be proven wrong.

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