Labor Unions Continue Push Back to 'Right to Work' Law

Feb 17, 2017

Missouri became the 28 right-to-work state when Gov. Eric Greitens signed it into law earlier this month. The legislation prohibits employers and labor unions from requiring employees to shell out dues. But the new law hasn’t been without opposition from unions statewide. Mark Baker who is a business representative for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers is against the new law and says it’s an attempt to drive down wages.


Interview Highlights

 

On why he's opposed to the legislation

It's a political payback for corporate America and uber rich CEO's to try and weaken unions, and basically effectively lower the standard of living for all working Missourians.

The indirect effect of this and a lot of people may or may not understand this is that, while this legislation targets unions and their members, which roughly in the private sector of the state of Missouri is about 8 percent. So you could say 'why would the legislature go after such a small percentage of the population?' It has an indirect effect on every working family, because the union movement--the labor movement believes we do set the standards and terms and conditions of employment for all workers. And when you raise the standard for union workers, you indirectly raise the standard for all workers and we're okay with that. So the inverse is also true. When you lower the standard for union workers you indirectly also affect all those non-union workers.

On companies who say they won't come to states that aren't right-to-work

Well I think that's an interesting position to take from a business or a corporate entity. And I think my reaction to that would be 'why is that entity taking that stance? Why would they be so opposed to their employees having an opportunity for representation and a voice on the job. And if they're opposed to that, what types of jobs would they be bringing to the area? And do we want those type of jobs. The hesitation would be are those living wage jobs or are they really seeking out a place to establish their facility where wages were lower, workplace incidents could be higher, less safety on the job, less oversight by regulatory authorities? And I think that's concerning to me. And I'm not really sure, we'd have to examine on a case by case basis, would we want those companies here in our state if we truly believe that all work has dignity like the labor movement does, and we should respect workers and reward the work that they do. We should provide them a safe job. Something that they can go home to from their to their family every night. And it should have a livable wage that you could support hopefully a middle class family on.

On what this legislation will mean for unions

In a best case scenario, what the technical application of the language does, it takes out the union security clause in a negotiated labor agreement that basically says if you're covered under this contract through your classification that's represented by this labor organization, then you have to become a union of the member within so many days of employment. [It's] usually 30. Sometimes shorter or longer. Basically, it says that that clause of the contract is now null and void. Somebody cannot be required to join the union, even if they're covered under that labor agreement. That's the technical aspect of it. In the best case scenario every person covered under that contract would still choose to join the union and pay their dues--whatever the structure is. And there would be no effect upon the treasury of the union. The goal of the legislation we believe, because as it's been pursued by the American Legislative Exchange Council--the Koch brothers out of state and out of touch millionaires and billionaires is to try to encourage members to not join the union, and to therefore decrease the treasury of each and every local union of those memberships. The long term goal of that would be to decrease the treasury funds to where unions couldn't effectively negotiate new contracts, couldn't consider a case to go to arbitration for a member that was unjustly disciplined terminated, and just give more power to the top 1 percent. That is the indirect effect. You know there's somewhere in that spectrum it may land, but our hope and our goal is that it has very little impact if we're successful. But we believe the legislation is just simply a government overreach.

 

The law goes into effect August 28.