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Dozens of US states declare war on workers' rights

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Message Tom Eley

States dominated by Republican leadership are pushing bills that would decimate public sector unions (which now account for the majority of total US union membership) including Wisconsin, Iowa, Arizona, Florida, New Jersey, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Texas.

Among the legislative methods meant to achieve this are: outlawing or limiting the automatic dues-check off; requiring individual permission be gained for using union dues for political purposes; and by requiring regular re-certification elections. Several states are also pushing laws that would mandate secret ballot-style elections for union certification, rather than card drives, the prevailing custom.

Meanwhile, in states dominated by the Democratic Party, attacks on workers' rights are being directly linked to wage-cutting.

In Connecticut a pending House bill would outlaw any wage increase awards in binding arbitration whenever unemployment in the state exceeds seven percent. A second bill would limit binding arbitration wage-increase awards to no more than the Consumer Price Index. (Binding arbitration occurs when workers and employers reach an impasse in negotiations, at which point a federal or state mediator may dictate a settlement.)

Hawaii's Senate has passed a bill out of committee that "makes employer contributions to the employer-union health benefits trust fund non-negotiable under collective bargaining." A number of other bills are circulating in its House and Senate that would increase worker contributions to health care and pensions, and another passed out of House committee that would eliminate Medicare Plan B reimbursements for retired government workers and their spouses.

A number of state legislatures, including New York and Illinois -- both dominated by Democrats -- are advancing bills that would force arbitration panels to limit awards to workers based on "the ability of a public employer to pay an award," according to the language used in the New York bill. The bill, versions of which are active in Albany in both the House and Senate, would force arbitrators to give this factor the highest priority in making decisions. Its transparent purpose is to give all levels of government, from the state to the schools, the ability to force dramatic pay cuts by claiming financial duress.

A similar measure being advanced in Republican-controlled Michigan would allow workers' contracts to be torn up in government units that have gone into bankruptcy or receivership.

A bill pending in Washington's legislature, also controlled by Democrats, "Amends the Constitution to allow salary reductions for public officials during an economic crisis."

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Tom Eley is the author of numerous articles and writes regularly from a Socialist perspective on national and international issues for, the voice of the International Committee of the Fourth International.
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Dozens of US states declare war on workers' rights

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