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January 2015

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Beating Back Right-to-Work

The celebrations over the Republicans' midterm sweep had barely ended when lawmakers and anti-union lobbyists in state capitols across the country began plotting 2015's legislative agenda.

At the top of the list: right-to-work-for-less. Legislators in at least five states have promised to introduce a version of the law this year.

Right-to-work laws hurt a union's ability to represent their members, driving down wages and benefits. Workers living in right-to-work states earn about $1,500 less per year than workers in states without these laws.

In December, Wisconsin state Rep. Chris Kapenga said he will introduce a right-to-work-for-less bill in the next legislative session. At the same time, Koch Brothers-linked activist Lorri Pickens launched "Wisconsin Right to Work," an organization entirely devoted to lobbying for the anti-union legislation.

Meanwhile in Missouri, state Rep. Bill Lant didn't even bother to wait until January to prefile a right-to-work bill for this year's session.

Anti-union legislation is a looming threat in other states that saw big GOP gains last November, including New Mexico, New Hampshire and Ohio, where Greg Lawson, a policy analyst at the conservative Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions told the Washington Post that he fully expects to see it come up this year.

Govs. Scott Walker (Wis.), Susana Martinez (N.M.) and John Kasich (Ohio) claim right-to-work isn't on their political radars, but I ain't buying it for a second.

It took Walker less than a month after taking office to pass Act 10, stripping collective bargaining rights from public workers. Kasich tried the same thing, before Ohio voters rejected his anti-labor bill at the ballot box. Neither candidate campaigned on a platform of union busting before taking office.

And in Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder publicly opposed right-to-work — that is until he saw an opportunity to sneak it through a lame duck session in 2012.

Make no mistake — anti-union lawmakers and corporate special interests are going to use their newfound majorities to continue to wage war on the labor movement.

The difference is the last time we were caught off-guard. In 2010, few of us expected that this new crop of leaders would go as far as they did in such a short period of time. As they say, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

We must be ready for the worst and be ready to mobilize — in our state capitols, workplaces and neighborhoods — to nip right-to-work in the bud.

Make phone calls, write to your local paper and, most of all, call your elected officials. Let them know that union-bashing is a bad way to start off the New Year.


Also: Hill: 2014: The Highs and Lows Read Hill's Column

Salvatore J. Chilia

Salvatore J. Chilia
International Secretary-Treasurer