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Est. April 5, 2002
October 08, 2015 - Issue 624

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With “Right-To-Work” Laws
Workers Know What the
1 Percent Is Doing


"Plutocrats see the union movement and the
social programs that came out of the struggle
of workers and their unions as a pot of money
that could be turned to profit…their profit."

They can’t fool all of the workers all of the time, but they’re trying.

The U.S. Supreme Court is about to take up a case that could determine whether members of a bargaining unit would have to pay dues for the benefits they receive under the union-negotiated contract.

If the court finds that workers do not have to pay what is called an agency fee or fair share fee (a fee in lieu of dues for the benefits they receive from a union contract), it is possible that all of the U.S. would become a right-to-work nation.

The case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (CTA), involves a member of a bargaining unit who receives all of the benefits of the union contract, yet does not want to join the union or pay the agency fee, an amount less than full dues that union members pay. Typically, these cases are taken through the courts by Right Wing organizations such as the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (NRTWLDF), always in the name of protecting the civil rights of workers who do not want to be part of the union and refuse to support the union in their workplace, even though they receive the same higher wages, holidays, paid vacations, health insurance, and pensions, just to name a few.

In this case, involving the CTA, the plaintiff is using the old First Amendment ruse, saying that being required to pay a fair share of the cost of operating the union is against her principles (and, we can assume, the right not to associate). They are saying that it violates Rebecca Friedrichs’ civil rights to have to pay a fair share fee and that she deserves, and has a right to, a free ride on the backs of all of the other union members who actually pay the freight. Sources such as the right-wing National Review referred to the fair share fee or agency fee as union “coercion.”

These same people, using their logic, should be out campaigning for the right of working people not to pay taxes to any government entity, because most workers object to much of what the politicians do on any given occasion. But, if they did that, they would be cutting off their money supply, since it is the working women and men who pay the bulk of the taxes and fees, even though the tax bill of the 1 percent may seem to be great, it pales in comparison to the tax revenues and fees paid by the 99 percent.

It is not just the NRTWLDF that is looking to the Supreme Court to deal the death blow to the union movement, but there are dozens or scores of groups paid for by the millionaires and billionaires, who have been funding the effort to rescind any laws that help workers improve their lives, and they have been doing it for generations. This case is the one they are pinning their hopes on.

Trade unionists disdainfully refer to NRTWLDF as the “right to work for less” committee. It is a creature of the plutocrats and, wherever the right-to-work laws are in effect, the level of wages is lower, the standard of living becomes stagnant or is reduced and a whole new segment of the population descends toward poverty, with all of the attendant miseries, such as low functioning schools, limited or no medical care or facilities, and collapsing infrastructure. Those things are not accidents.

It’s no secret that the U.S. has become a plutocracy, controlled by wealth and those who own the wealth. It can be called an oligarchy (rule by the few), as well, because what we do as a nation is determined by a handful of the rich and corporate types, all working through their minions in the Congress and state legislatures. The plutocrats and oligarchs are not just going after unions, they are going after Social Security: They want to destroy it as we know it, by privatizing it. By privatizing it, the corporations can get their hands on a pile of money that probably each year is exceeded only by the U.S. military and defense budget.

When they have finished off the unions, they believe, it should be relatively easy to finish off the social programs they feel are a drag on their ability to suck the substance out of the nation and its people. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are the lifeline in their old age for millions of people who worked all their lives for those small but vital benefits. But it’s a pile of money that Corporate America can’t wait to put in their private and corporate coffers.

In introducing S.731 in the Senate, Senator Bernie Sanders, who is campaigning for the Democratic nomination for president, wants to expand Social Security. He said, “At a time of massive wealth inequality, when 99 percent of all new income generated in this country goes to the top 1 percent, and when over half of the American people have less than $10,000 in savings, the last thing we should do is cut Social Security.”

The short period in U.S. history in which unions expressed the strength of workers, and when some 36 percent of workers were in unions, was the time of the growth of the great middle class and secure working class and it was during that time that unions played the greatest part in prompting the passage of the most important social programs, a few of which we are discussing here.

The current case before the Supreme Court, involving the California Teachers Association, is just one small part of the broad-based assault on the rights of workers to form unions and make them effective in raising the standard for all workers, union or non-union. Unions always have done this.

Martin Luther King Jr. agreed. In a speech to the state AFL-CIO convention in Chicago in 1965, he said: “The labor movement was the principal force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress. Out of its bold struggles, economic and social reform gave birth to unemployment insurance, old-age pensions, government relief for the destitute and, above all, new wage levels that meant not mere survival but a tolerable life. The captains of industry did not lead this transformation; they resisted it until they were overcome. When in the thirties the wave of union organization crested over the nation, it carried to secure shores not only itself but the whole society.”

Plutocrats see the union movement and the social programs that came out of the struggle of workers and their unions as a pot of money that could be turned to profit…their profit. And, they want it. Since the end of World War II, the millionaires and billionaires have sent their shock troops out into the country to turn workers’ eyes away from the reality of their lives, by providing television and movies (and now, video games and iPhones), sports, and fast food. They have bought up the means of information and news, so that only a half-dozen corporations own most of the media, they have established think tanks that pump out propaganda that ends up in our grade schools, high schools, and institutions of higher learning. Workers are turned against their own interests, even before they are workers, and it’s all part of a grand plan. Their think tanks turn out oceans of propaganda for newspapers, magazines, television, educational institutions, and, even churches and other places of worship.

Politics in the U.S. is controlled by the same small group and, since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, money from the plutocrats has polluted the political and electoral system. With unlimited money, they control the electoral process, helping to suppress the franchise of those they believe might vote against the interests of the 1 percent.

Their money has infiltrated the cultural institutions, as well, including museums and the purchase of chairs (or creating departments or courses of study) in colleges and universities around the country.

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association is a very important case for unions, because a negative decision by the justices will make it very hard to come back from an 11 percent unionization rate overall (6 percent in the private sector). For the plutocrats, a small setback is not all that alarming, since they have been at this work for generations and they know they hold all of the money and the power. Many workers know the game the rich are playing and, if they can impart that knowledge to the mass of workers in the country, the repercussion could be great.

The nation is in a time of turmoil in a world of turmoil. It does not need the people to be dictated to by the oligarch-plutocrats. After all Americans did not like living under the rule of a king and they appear to like dictators even less. Columnist, John Funiciello, is a long-time former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.

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