Thursday, October 02, 2008

Conservatives and business will continue to screw workers

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Hey folks, johne here from Oreo is letting me guest-post. Over the next week or so I'll also describe many of the other ballot measures Coloradans will have to vote on this year.

In a time of increasing CEO wages and falling worker wages, union membership is at an all time low. In my own state of Colorado, union membership is at just 8.7% However, the conservatives feel this just isn't low enough. They want to continue to dismantle worker collective bargaining. Employers have all the power when negotiations are between them and 1 employee at a time. Is it any wonder that union members have on average 30% higher salary and better benefits?

Here in Colorado anti worker forces have gotten Amendment 47 on the ballot to allow employees who benefit from collective bargaining to not pay anything for that protection. Technically it's called "right to work" but is also referred to as "right to work for less" and "right to free-load."

Per the secretary of state's website, Amendment 47 says:

Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning participation in a labor organization as a condition of employment, and, in connection therewith, prohibiting an employer from requiring that a person be a member and pay any moneys to a labor organization or to any other third party in lieu of payment to a labor organization and creating a misdemeanor criminal penalty for a person who violates the provisions of the section?

This amendment sets out to modify the Colorado Labor Peace Act. Here's the first pertinent section:

8-3-106. In accordance with the provisions of this article, employees have the right of self-organization and the right to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own free choosing, and to engage in lawful, concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection. Each employee also has the right to refrain from any of such activities. The rights of each employee are essential rights, and nothing contained in this article shall be so construed as to infringe upon or have any operation against or in conflict with such rights.

Now take a look at the wording of the next section.
8-3-107. Representatives and elections.
(1) A unit chosen for the purpose of collective bargaining shall be the exclusive representative of all of the employees in such unit, if the majority of the employees of one employer, or the majority of the employees of one employer in a craft, vote at an election. But employees individually have the right at any time to present grievances to their employer in person or through representatives of their own free choosing, and the employer shall confer with them in relation thereto.

If Amendment 47 is passed it allows for non-members to not pay any dues or agency fees. However, the language of the relationship between employee and union remains. The union works to collectively bargain and work on grievances for all employees. It says nothing about whether or not they are members of the union.

So, why would anyone pay union dues if the union would continue to bargain for them and be forced to represent them in the case of a grievance? This is simply an effort to further weaken unions.

When the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that 8.7% of Coloradans are members of unions why is this even important? It's not. It's simply an effort by the far-right to further enact their agenda to the detriment of those few remaining union workers.

While you may not think issues in Colorado can affect you in other states, don't hold your breath. Just like Amendment 48 being a test case to re-hear Roe v Wade, and 46 another out of state effort to kill off affirmative action programs just like in California and Michigan, the efforts can and will come to your state especially if they pass or come close. Even if you don't live here, if you have friends or family in Colorado, please let them know about these ballot measures.

Disclosure: I'm working for Coloradans for Middle Class Relief because I think our workers and economy have enough problems without this needless amendment.

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