Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Protecting the Dignity of Labor

The national battle between conservative groups and labor unions has come to our state.  Outside groups are applying pressure on our Missouri legislature to pass controversial legislation that would strip unions of the power to compel workers in union shops to join.  The legislation is known as Right to Work, would allow employees to decide whether to join a union, and whether to pay union dues. 

In reality the legislation is an effort to break or reduce the power of organized labor.  Unions in the 24 states that have passed Right to Work have seen sharp drop-offs in dues-paying members after the law takes effect.

As a person of faith I believe that if the dignity of work is to remain protected, then the basic rights of workers must be protected.  I believe we must protect workers by providing fair wages, freedom from discrimination, and the right to organize and join unions. I believe in justice and in the common good.

Right-to-work laws go against everything I believe.  Economists tell us that right-to-work laws devastate economic justice. They lower wages for all workers, and they lessen benefits for all workers. They increase poverty in our communities.  “Right to Work” laws drive down wages and make it harder for working families to find jobs with good wages and decent pension plans.  These laws do not have anything to do with “rights” or “freedom,” but instead they make it harder for working families to get by.

If Missouri were to pass this law, wages would go down and our entire community would suffer. As Governor Nixon pointed out recently, last year Missouri ranked in the top 10 nationally in private sector job growth which is better than every single one of our “Right to Work” neighbors.

It is clear that this issue is not really about jobs, rights, or freedom.  It is an out of state, special interest agenda designed to drive down wages for working families.  Instead of trying to fix something that isn’t broken and engaging in such partisan, divisive tactics, the legislature should focus on real issues like Medicaid expansion and improving education.

Right-to-work laws do not help the least among us. Rather, they enrich those who already hold most of the power and wealth. They foster extreme inequality, inequality that can only lead to extreme disparities and extreme division.  In the book of Isaiah, the prophet proclaims, “Woe to those who make unjust laws.”  I encourage you to make your voice heard.  Tell you legislator to vote NO on the “Right to Work” and “Paycheck Deception” bills that come up for a vote this year.

1 comment:

Jim Price said...

Jim, You have hit the nail on the head. Here in Ga and in Tn the right to work law is really a right to fire law. A VW plant near us has been going through a real problem even though VW says they welcome the UAW. Keep up the good work.