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Happy Holidays: GOP Delivers Uncertainty to Middle Class


Apparently, uncertainty is a fate worse than death for a CEO. Billionaires bellyache about it constantly on TV, contending they must know, right now, whether next year’s tax rates will rise. Republicans bewail uncertainty, insisting CEOs must know, right now, whether they’ll get a tax holiday for overseas profits.

Their deep, abiding concern about the ill effects of uncertainty doesn’t extend, however, to the middle class. To Republicans and far too many billionaires and CEOs, weighing down workers with uncertainty about wages, health insurance and retirement is a fate well deserved.

In fact, Republicans in the past two years have gone hog-wild heightening middle class fear and uncertainty. In addition to demanding cuts to programs crucial to middle class certainty like Medicare and Social Security, Republican lawmakers in GOP-controlled states across the country have passed laws prohibiting union security clauses in collective bargaining agreements. This results in weaker unions and lower benefits and wages, not just for union workers but for everyone in union insecurity states.  That creates financial insecurity, the worst kind of uncertainty.

Union security clauses give labor organizations some financial certainty. They require any worker who benefits from a collective bargaining agreement to either join and pay dues or to decline membership and pay a smaller fee covering the cost of union services like negotiation and grievance resolution.

Some states – union insecurity states – forbid these clauses. There’s a total of 24 now, with GOP-controlled Michigan and Indiana joining this year. These governors say their efforts are intended to assist workers in union shops who don’t want to pay anything toward the cost of union services.

So, of course, these governors wouldn’t exclude a union, which would allow that union to retain security while denying it to all the rest. Right?

Wrong. That’s what Michigan and Indiana Republicans did. Indiana exempted government workers. Michigan deliberately omitted firefighters and police officers. In fact, one Republican lawmaker who voted to deny union security to Michigan Steelworkers and Auto workers and Iron workers tried unsuccessfully to have her husband’s union – prison guards – added to the exemptions. She wanted union security for her family, but she denied it to others.

The GOP in Michigan tried to position itself as the savior of workers, some sort of perverse Superman rescuing those who receive union benefits from the responsibility to help pay for union costs. Superheroes always win in the end, so Republicans should have no fear of a referendum in which voters get the chance to have their say on whether Michigan should be a union insecurity state. Right?

Wrong. The Michigan GOP barred a referendum by attaching an appropriation to the union insecurity bill, which under state law forecloses a ballot measure. That doesn’t make sense if Republicans really believe they’re helping workers. But maybe they remembered what happened next door in Ohio last year when voters smacked down a union busting law in a referendum vote of 62 percent to 38 percent.

Outlawing union security is union busting. That’s because federal law requires unions to represent everyone in a workplace, even those who don’t pay dues or fees. For example, if a worker who refused to pay dues or fees got fired for tardiness and demanded the union file a grievance challenging the dismissal, the union would have to do it. And pay the costs.

That erodes union funds, and ultimately bankrupts some unions. That’s the result sought by Republicans and union-busting, billionaire-funded groups like Americans for Greed – oh, sorry, they call themselves Americans for Prosperity. (Not to mention the other result they want – diminished support for Democrats, who unions typically back.) Republicans and Americans for Greed want to return to the robber baron days before a Democrat-controlled Congress passed the Wagner Act facilitating unionization in 1935.