Shameful of Day running anti-union op-ed Labor Day

Shame on The Day for giving voice to National Right to Work Committee President Mark Mix’s anti-union diatribe “On Labor Day, consider ending forced dues,” published on Labor Day. Your timing was terrible.

Didn’t anyone tell you, Labor Day is a day reserved for honoring working people and the sacrifices of the men and women who fought and died to help bring about labor reforms like the eight-hour workday, a ban on child labor, workplace safety and racial and gender equality on the job? These are among benefits too numerous to mention here.

That The Day would choose labor’s day to showcase the duplicitous agenda of The National Right to Work Committee is beyond the pale. This is like making Scott Pruitt head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Anyone vaguely familiar with the state of organized labor knows that the end game of the NRTWC is the “right” to work for less, which is exactly what happens in mostly southern states where “right-to-work” is the law of the land by virtue of state laws put in place by Republican state legislatures and signed into law by Republican governors.

When I initially came across this piece on The Day’s editorial page, my first thought was that it was a guest op-ed written by a local person. Turns out the author Mark Mix, president of NRTWC, apparently salted newspapers across the entire country with this little gem according to the brief Google search I conducted. And you guys took the bait! If this happens again next year — call me. I’ll write something. Samuel Gompers and Mother Jones must be spinning in their graves right now.

It’s no secret that labor union membership has fallen across the private sector concurrently with the fall of union membership and the hollowing out of the American middle class and the growing wealth divide. Perhaps, this is more than a coincidence.

The NRTWC, fresh off last year’s win and not being satisfied with the Supreme Court Janus decision that basically made every government office in the country a “right-to-work” state, has now set its sights on making the entire private sector nationwide “right-to-work.”

The specious “forced dues” argument simply means that private sector unions are still permitted to collect at least partial dues or “agency fees” from “non-members” who they are required by law to represent. This is unlike in the public sector, where there is no obligation to pay even the cost of contract negotiations, a result of last year’s Janus decision, widely celebrated by the NRTWC and Fox News.

The obligation to pay your fair share of union dues or agency fees had been in place for decades until it was overturned by the Janus case, which said public sector unions can’t collect anything from members they are forced to represent if those workers don’t want to pay. Somehow, in the twisted logic of the right, this got wrapped up as a defense of the right to free speech. And the five conservatives on the Supreme Court liked what they saw.

A body blow to unions? Hence, the Janus decision.

By law, the unions must still represent the non-dues paying members or “free riders” while their share of the costs are put on the backs of their co-workers. So, the “free riders” get all the benefits of the union, they just don’t have to pay anything for it. Un-American? Most definitely. Contentious? By design.

NRTWC now wants a nation of free riders and fractured unions.

If you guessed this was designed to hurt organized labor and working people, you would be correct. Dissenting Justice Justice Elena Kagan, who wrote the main dissent in the Janus dues case, warned that the ruling could disrupt “thousands of ongoing contracts involving millions of employees.” This is exactly what it was intended to do.

This 5-4 Supreme Court decision was only made possible when President Trump tipped the Supreme Court balance to the right with the appointment of conservative darling Brett Kavanaugh last year. Many Republicans held their noses to get him confirmed, but to whom much is given, much is expected. And as expected, Kavanaugh delivered.

Who finances the NRTWC? That would be a bevy of billionaires, “dark-money” right-wing anti-labor groups, people like the Koch brothers and the perennial anti-union Walton family and any number of folks who would prefer that their names not be made public. While the NRTWC would have you believe theirs is a classic “David vs. Goliath” fight with them protecting the oppressed worker, the reality is very different. The real beneficiaries of “right-to-work” are the mega-corporations. Just follow the money and the people with the most to gain by oppressing unions and wages.

Speaking of money, perhaps you noticed the $70 million mega-yacht “The Majestic” docked at New London City Pier last week. There was a brief write up and photo in The Day.

What The Day didn’t tell you is that before it was “The Majestic,” it was “Secret” — custom built for Nancy Walton Lauri, daughter of Walmart co-founder Bud Walton. Think of it as the boat that Walmart built — no friends of organized labor.

Mark Mix and NRTWC deserve to have their day, it shouldn’t have been Labor Day.

Clifford Marlow lives in New London.

 

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