The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, November 15, 2013

Right to work for everybody! GOP's McConnell says

By The Building Tradesman

As if our federal government weren't divided enough, now a national right-to-work law is being pushed by Republican leaders in Congress.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) proposed an amendment to a workplace discrimination bill in the hopes of creating a national right-to-work law. Their amendment was attached to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) on Nov. 5 but was removed when the bill was adopted in the Senate on Nov. 7.

ENDA would bar discrimination in the workplace for large businesses on the basis of sexual orientation or identity. The right-to-work amendment introduced by McConnell and Paul was intended to become included under the "discrimination" umbrella - as in workers who choose not to join a union are being discriminated against. 

McConnell on Nov. 5 spent a few minutes on the Senate floor pushing for national right-to-work, which is rare. Right-to-work has been adopted in 24 states, but it almost never gets a nationwide push in Congress, much less from the Senate minority leader. McConnell chose to hold up the nation's newest RTW state, Michigan, as an example.

"Almost a year ago now," McConnell said, "Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed historic right-to-work legislation into law. At the time he said he viewed it as an opportunity to stand up for Michigan's workers, to be pro-worker. The union bosses, the entrenched special interests and the professional left have stood in united militant disagreement. But Michigan's soft-spoken governor was right. And the more venom big labor directed at him the more it confirmed the suspicions of many middle class workers that Snyder was trying to help."

A Michigan State University poll taken in March found that the state's residents are about evenly divided on the right to work issue.

McConnell said nothing in his Senate speech about the popular opposition to right to work, highlighted by 10,000 or so workers who joined union leaders in "militant disagreement" to RTW on the front lawn of the State Capitol building last Dec. 6. Instead the Senate majority leader chose to vilify union "bosses" and the "professional left," whatever that is.

The amendment by the Kentucky senators "merely calls for the repeal of discriminatory clauses in federal law that allow as a condition of employment forcing workers to join a union or forcing workers to pay union dues," McConnell added. He said nothing about the inherent discrimination in Michigan's RTW law of forcing dues-paying union members to pay for union benefits enjoyed by non-dues paying freeloaders.

"If you look at the state of unionism today, I think the facts speak for themselves," said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), responding to McConnell. "Those who want to eliminate the opportunity for collective bargaining and make it more difficult for workers to stand up and speak for themselves in the workplace, I think frankly are going to condemn us to a much slower-growing economy and much more injustice when it comes to compensation."

The McConnell-Paul right-to-work amendment was removed from the bill before a vote by the full Senate, which is controlled by Democrats. The anti-discrimination bill has little chance of passage in the GOP-controlled House, however, where Speaker John Boehner said he is concerned it would open up employers to lawsuits.