“Right to Work” in Maine
On September 2, 2011 At 1:30 pm
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It’s easy to look at events in Maine as if in a bubble, not realizing that some happenings here are not isolated events. This is true about efforts to make Maine a “right to work” state, joining 22 other states that bar unions from collecting fees from non-members that they are mandated to represent by Federal law.
But bills like LD788, sponsored by Rep. Tom Winsor (R-Norway) and which I review here, are actually part of a trend that is being coordinated on a national level.
For example, Americans for Prosperity, a “free market” advocacy group founded by David Koch, has been shopping a right to work initiative for Michigan’s ballot since 2008. And this year can be found “right to work” bills in at least 8 states.
And that’s where things get interesting, for when you examine the actual language of some of these bills, they contain the exact same language. From LD788 there is this:
§ 653. Right to refrain
A person may not be required, as a condition of employment or continuation of employment, to:
1. Become a member. Become or remain a member of a labor organization;
2. Pay dues. Pay any dues, fees, assessments or other similar charges, however denominated, of any kind or amount to a labor organization; or
3. Pro rata portions. Pay to any charity or other 3rd party, in lieu of payments under subsection 2, any amount equivalent to or a pro rata portion of dues, fees, assessments or other charges required of members of a labor organization.
New Hampshire has its own “right to work” bill, HB 474, where we find this:
273-D:4 Freedom of Choice Guaranteed, Discrimination Prohibited. No person shall be required, as a condition of employment or continuation of employment:
I. To resign or refrain from voluntary membership in, voluntary affiliation with, or voluntary financial support of a labor organization;
II. To become or remain a member of a labor organization;
III. To pay any dues, fees, assessments, or other charges of any kind or amount to a labor organization;
IV. To pay any charity or other third party, in lieu of such payments, any amount equivalent to or a pro-rata portion of dues, fees, assessments, or other charges of a labor organization.
And in Missouri, SB109 reads:
Section A.290.590.2. No person shall be required as a condition or continuation of employment to:
(1) Become or refrain from becoming a member of a labor organization;
(2) Pay any dues, fees, assessments, or other similar charges however denominated of any kind or amount to a labor organization; or
(3) In lieu of the payments listed under subdivision (2) of this subsection, pay to any charity or other third party any amount equivalent to, or on a pro rata basis, any dues, fees, assessments, or other charges required of members of a labor organization.
In fact, the bills, excepting legalese required to make the bill fit with each state’s laws, are nearly identical, down to unusual vocabulary and phrasing.
Take this, first from Maine’s LD788:
§ 658. Duty to investigate
The Attorney General or a district attorney of a district in which a violation is alleged to have occurred shall investigate complaints of violation or threatened violations of this Act and shall prosecute all persons violating any of its provisions to ensure its effective enforcement.
New Hampshire’s HB 474:
273-D:11 Duty to Investigate. It shall be the duty of the attorney general and of each county attorney, to investigate any complaints of violation of this chapter, and to prosecute all persons violating any of its provisions, and to use all means at their command to insure effective enforcement of the provisions of this chapter.
And Missoouri’s SB109:
6. It shall be the duty of the prosecuting attorney of each county and of the attorney general of this state to investigate complaints of violation or threatened violation of this section and to prosecute any person violating this section and to use all means at their command to ensure the effective enforcement of this section.
Or this exclusion of the law for Federal employees – first LD788:
§ 659.3. Federal enclaves. To employers and employees on exclusive federal enclaves
New Hampshire’s HB474:
273-D:13.III. To employers and employees on exclusive federal enclaves.
And Missouri’s SB109:
7.(3) To employers and employees on exclusive federal enclaves;
Where did the language in these bills come from? It’s no coincidence that they are the same – who or what group wrote it?
So why is there this assault on unions? Is there a huge outcry from non-member workers in union shops, protesting the service fees that they must pay? No doubt there are some, maybe many, that grumble about these fees, but I’ve also read praise from non-members for union efforts regarding contracts and labor disputes.
If not from workers, then why do groups like Americans for Prosperity (AFP) and the Maine Heritage Policy Center (MHPC) behind “right to work” bills?
If unions are no longer able to require fees be paid for services they are forced to provide, those that they represent will stop paying them. Why pay for something that you can get for free? So members will leave the union until such time that it is no longer financially able to perform its intended and mandated services for their workers it represents, and so disbands.
With unions emasculated, so will be opposition to privatization of state services. This is happening in other states, and may be in Maine’s future.
Look again at which groups from away contributed to the RGA Maine 2010 PAC, that spent more than $1.7 million helping to elect Gov. Paul LePage:
For-profit Social-Services Companies and Consultants Chipped in $143,000
Several donors to the PAC are in the business of taking over the operation of state services, and presumably hope the LePage administration will consider letting them do so here.
Virginia-based MAXIMUS (which gave $50,000) provides “operating and consulting services” for child support, child welfare, day care, juvenile justice, Medicaid, Food Stamps, Social Security, job training, and Aid for Families with Dependent Children programs. K12 MANAGEMENT INC. ($19,000) is a for-profit curriculum developer for charter schools. RESCARE INC. ($25,000) specializes in home, child, and disability care services. SELLERS DORSEY ($25,000) is a health-care and Medicaid reform consulting firm whose clients include MAXIMUS, Pfizer, and the Maine Hospital Association. Miami-based PREFERRED CARE PARTNERS INC. ($24,000) is a Medicaid administrative subcontractor in South Florida.
Gov. LePage is examining dividing Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and it isn’t a stretch to think that privatization of social services will be part of the equation.