March 4, 2011

Unions rally against “right-to-work” bill

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By Megan Poinski
Megan@MarylandReporter.com

Unionized workers filled the Senate Finance Committee hearing room and the third floor of the Miller Building on Wednesday afternoon to urge committee members to kill a bill that they said would deal a crushing blow to the state’s unions.

Sen. Allan Kittleman

The bill, sponsored by Howard County Republican Sen. Allan Kittleman, would make Maryland a “right-to-work” state. This means that employers in the private sector could not require employees to join unions, discriminate against employees based on their union membership, or force  employees who choose not to join unions to make any payments to the union. It would not have any impact on unions representing state or local government employees.

Kittleman said that he was responding to what he heard repeatedly while on the campaign trail: the state needs more jobs. “Right-to-work” states, he said, tend to have more job growth and higher wages, and this move seems like the best way to get more people working in the state.

He also said the bill is a simple matter of freedom.

“It allows an employee to work without fear of discrimination for joining a union or not joining a union,” Kittleman said.

However, union members said the bill would hurt the state as a whole, and vehemently opposed it. They labeled it a “right to work for less” measure and a “race to the bottom” bill.

“We believe this bill is a part of a virus that is attempting to find fertile ground in legislatures all over the country,” said Frank Mason, president of the Maryland state and Washington, D.C. AFL-CIO. “I urge that we kill it ASAP.”

Union members, who filled most of the seats in the hearing room, responded with applause, but they were quickly shushed by security guards.

Using more strong rhetoric, Mason said the bill is trying to “kill unions.”

Joslyn Williams, the Washington Metro Council AFL-CIO President said the bill would be lowering the standard of living in the state. Williams said average workers in right-to-work states make $5,300 less than elsewhere. Additionally, he said, women and minorities earn lower wages in right-to-work states.

Vance Ayers, executive director of DC Building Trades Council, said that the bill could have a disastrous impact on the economy. When average workers get higher wages, more money circulates in the economy, Ayers said.

Kittleman didn’t see it that way.

“The bill just says you don’t have to join,” he said.

Only two business lobbyists gave perfunctory support to Kittleman’s legislation.

  • Rusty99

    Public sector unions should be made to disappear. They are the embodiment of political corruption.

  • Finn

    There are few workers in the US who aren’t receiving the benefit of a union at some point fighting for a living wage, decent working conditions, benefits, etc.
    The history of unions needs to understood as the force that set the bar for all of the above. Even if you, like me, are not working for a union employer, our wages would be lower, our benefits would be less, the demands on us would be more if there hadn’t been unions fighting for those issues at some point. We can’t pick and choose this stuff. Just like insurance, we have to be represented. The only way insurance works is because of the large number of people who pay in who are healthy as well as those who are sick. Unions aren’t any different. They need large numbers of people in order to work, in order to represent a large enough number of people/employees that the employers will listen.

  • working class citizen

    It does not just hurt the unoins and u r turning many people off by dwelling on that. It hurts everybody except the filthy rich looking to get richer. I am a union laborer in MO where the greedy are pushing for “right to starve” legeslation and there are a lot of people that think it only affects the union, but it lowers the standard for all. It retroactively raises prices of goods because people cannot afford as much so they get less for more. this reduces tax revenue, so taxes have to raise to offset the loss. If that is not a sufficiant amount the it is logical to raise property tax as well, after all it takes money to run a government. So, lower wages, less buying power, higher taxes all in the name of right to work. Wow, what a hidious idea. Please research these facts of wages, goods, taxes and so on. then tell everybody u know so we can defeat this monster and evan Rusty 99 can feed his family

  • In right to work states, workers have lower wages, less benefits and less real rights.

    • Anonymous

      unfortunately it is impossible to look at right to work vs union coercion states ceteris paribus. From a strictly logical natural rights perspective, “right to work” strictly means that employers and employees may enter into contract without external coercive intervention from unions. Since coercive union action is effectively aggression, we are legalizing aggression by denying “right to work.” Also, the history of unions have shown that they tend to use the government to help their members at the expense of other workers. For example, you say that workers will have higher wages and benefits in union coercion states. This may be the case, just as states with higher minimum wage could be said to have higher wages. But in reality, this is just a form of theft. Since you are preventing the employer from hiring individuals at the market rate, or, to be more precise, the rate at which the employer and employee agree upon voluntarily, the employer will likely hire fewer workers. Thus, while you say wages are higher, productivity and employment decrease due the inefficiency you have coercively introduced to the market.

      • Simon_Jester

        There is more than one kind of coercion, and a “strictly logical natural rights perspective” is a very dim, polarizing filter to look at something as complicated as the job market through.

        In practice, workers are not specimens of Homo Economicus and do not actually sit down and calculate what they stand to gain or lose by paying union dues. New hires will choose not to pay, just as left to their own devices people choose not to pay for roads, schools, or police forces- because you get all those things for free anyway. They want the benefits unions arranged, and choose not to pay for them. Is it ‘theft’ to make them pay, as a way of averting the tragedy of the commons? If so, then our entire civilization is built on that kind of ‘theft,’ and would collapse into poverty and chaos without such ‘theft.’

        When we remove union funding by allowing people to opt out of paying for them while trying to enjoy the benefits of unions’ existence in the short term, unions get defunded. Employers get far more leverage politically because they get to lobby the state and seek rents as hard as they ever did, while laborers no longer have the resources to organize campaigns, even for things that would obviously benefit the vast majority of people in the state. Where does this end?

        Well, just the other day, a law firm in the “right-to-work” state of Florida fired fourteen employees for *wearing orange.*

        http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/14-office-workers-wear-orange-work-fired-article-1.1047960

        Does anyone really want an environment where that can happen to them? I doubt it- but de-unionization leads us in that direction, because employers will seek their own advantage even after labor stops being able to do the same. If there’s no such thing as a wrongful termination lawsuit, you will see bosses firing you for wearing the wrong color shirt. It happens.

        Trying to remove parts of the system that combine a little power (or wealth) from a lot of people is a bad idea. It will always play into the hands of the parts of the system that already have great power (or wealth) concentrated in a few people’s hands, because *they* can afford to hire advocates and lobbyists out of their own pocket money, without needing to form mass-organized groups that collect money from the class they represent.

  • Gatchell

    Seems to me that if this country ever wants to get back on its feet…it needs to get rid of all unions, minimum wage and let the market dictate what people will get paid…that is how our country was founded…this country could compete on the world market…unions would not be demanding such high wages and the jobs would not be leaving this country to go to countries where they dont have to deal with the corrupt unions to get a fair wage….as far as job security goes…if you do a good job and not be a lazy ass like i have witnessed in union factories in the past ..you would have job security…no employer would ever get rid of a good worker.  I am sure all of you who have been brainwashed by the corrupt union bosses will not believe anything I say…Unions are getting more and more corrupt…I think all union members in the country should  find out honestly the agenda of the union of which you belong.  AFL-CIO president Richard Trumpka has admitted to being a communist.  Wake up America!

  • Simon_Jester

    The country was doing better in the 1950s and ’60s, when unions were strong, than it is doing now, when unions are weak. Job security and happiness among the working class were better then, when unions were strong, than now, when unions are weak.

    Employers will *always* get rid of a good worker if they think they can hire a better one. And these days there are always people looking for work in virtually every industry. A small percentage of highly educated professions aside, because those aren’t accessible to normal people… The only people who have real job security on account of how hard they work are the ones who are desperate enough or driven enough to work 12 hour days. And they only get it until something goes wrong, until they get sick or they have to spend time caring for a relative or they decide they can’t stand the strain anymore because they never have time to see their family. Then they become replaceable- and the market will replace them if it can, because the market doesn’t care whether you get time to see your children after work.

    Is that the life we are supposed to demand from ourselves? Is that how civilization is supposed to work, with everyone getting caught up on this treadmill that runs faster and faster, until we’re all running flat out as hard as we can just to stay in place and hold on to what we’ve got? Until we abandon family, hobbies, art, culture, all in the name of making the machine run as fast and be as productive as it possibly can, and what of it if some of us get ground up in the gears of its productivity?

    Do we *need* to live like that, when there are other developed countries where people are happy and healthy and have Internet connections and modern highways and governments relatively free of corruption… countries that *don’t* ask their people to live like that? Why do we have to work 10%, or 20%, or 50% harder than the Swedes or the French in order to be LESS happy with the way we live?

    Does asking these questions make me lazy? Does asking these questions make me a communist? Because this isn’t even about capitalism or whether capitalism should not exist. It’s about whether we should make every single decision in our lives for capitalism’s sake, even if it means sacrificing our other hopes and dreams and goals as a society.

    If talking like this makes me a communist, then we have a problem. Because *winning* the Cold War should mean we get to decide for ourselves, as a people, who gets rewarded for the effort and how. We shouldn’t be so enslaved by our own victorious system that we can no longer choose how we want it to work.

  • Julie Foster

    From my own experience I hate Right To Work States which should really be called right to have all your rights taken away states.

  • James

    Republicans don’t care about workers right that’s a smoke screen they just care about corporations bottom line.