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“Right to Work” = Low Wages, No Benifits

December 19, 2013

This article was published in the Duncan OK Banner December 18, 2013.

It has been reported that an Empress once said, “If they can not afford bread, let them eat cake,” for which she eventually lost her head!
Although that was an extreme punishment, it does bring home the point of the adage, “What goes around comes around.” While not to the extremes of France in the 1800’s, the inequities of our nation continue to grow. Inequities between middle incomes and wealth in the United States have reached an unbalanced level, unless some adjustments are forthcoming, it could lead to a social backlash that might prove disastrous to our nation. To want more, when we have all that is needed, is part of the human DNA. What some individuals haven’t identified is when enough is enough; thus, the concept of assisting another to move ahead to a better life is unimaginable.”
In 1947, labor unions were greatly reined in when Republicans passed the Taft-Hartley Act (Labor Management Relations Act) (NMRA), nullifying Democratic President Harry S. Truman’s veto. The foundational powers left with the unions were at state levels. Thwarting the strength of unions to continue to grow was the start of dwindling union membership.
The divergence in equality of life, however, fully blossomed in the 1980’s during the presidency of Republican Ronald Reagan when the FAA Flight Controllers Union was broken. That action by the federal government gave credence to major pushes by conservative states toward a mass-exodus-campaign to “right-to-work” laws which precluded forming labor unions. That transition was successful, in large part, by a little known non-profit organization named “The American Legislative Exchange Council.” (Unfortunately, it was so successful it now includes the fields of education, gun control, environmental and criminal justice issues.)
With the demise of the Labor Unions, due to “right-to-work” laws, companies froze or decreased wages to employees who had no recourse to fight back. Today, with workers’ wages on the decline, large companies are able to prosper disproportionately to working class’ incomes. This decline in wages has not affected the cost of living but has caused a steady decline in purchasing power for the majority of America’s citizens. Basic mathematics will show that when the general population has no extra money to spend, it affects the profits of major companies who, in turn, then reduce their workforce. People who have experienced a company lay-off do not have excess funds either, so the problem is compounded.
A sound economy should be based on fair and equitable agreements between the workforce and the employer. Said agreements need to covers both wages (including adequate benefits) and safe working conditions,
Republicans tout “right-to-work” laws, lower corporate taxes, lower personal income or no income taxes as what makes a state’s economy strong. This being the case, why in the last six years of Oklahoma’s “right to work” law with continued reductions of income taxes have we realized a 29% rise in unemployment numbers (2006 through 2012)? Oklahoma’s very low unemployment rate is because of the huge disparity in Oklahoma’s income inequality. A disproportionate share of this state’s low-paying jobs in the service industry ($2.13/hr. in food services) keeps unemployment percentages low while creating high levels of poverty in almost all parts of Oklahoma. The only exception is in the few major cities. “Right-to-work” laws can be proactive, but it takes a strong, focused State Department of Labor. The Labor Commissioner must be actively involved in the day-to-day operations of his/her sub-departments to insure that working people’s rights are protected
Even with the Taft-Hartley Act, a labor union may be formed, just not during actual time on the job (after work, breaks and lunch times are okay). Also, there are rules employers must follow before considering dismissal.
For more information, visit ok.gov/DOL. This site contains directions for grievances, wrongful dismissal along with rights to unionize.

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