A bill introduced in Congress this week that would establish right-to-work laws throughout the country was blasted today by the leaders of the WGA East, which said its intent is to “wipe out” unions.
Right-to-work laws, which exist in about half the states, allow workers the right not to belong to unions – or to pay union dues – at companies covered by union contracts. A federal law offered by Rep. Steve King (R-NY) and Joe Wilson (R-SC) would extend those laws in all 50 states.
This could be devastating for Hollywood’s unions because anyone who doesn’t want to pay union dues wouldn’t have to — but still would still all the benefits of a union’s collective bargaining agreement. Such workers are commonly known as “free-riders.”
The push for such a national law comes up almost every year but, until now, never has gotten through Congress. Under the new political reality, however, it could very well become law – and a major blow to unions everywhere.
Here is the joint statement from WGA East president Michael Winship and executive director Lowell Peterson:
“One of the strange perennial rituals of Beltway Washington is the introduction of legislation to destroy the only effective voice American workers have on the job. Mislabeled ‘National Right to Work,’ this legislation – introduced yet again by far-right congressmen Steve King and Joe Wilson – intends to cut organized labor off at the knees by making it impossible to finance the tough work put in by American unions to represent and protect working people. Strong sturdy unions are essential to organize workplaces, to negotiate and enforce collective bargaining agreements and to do the day-to-day hard work of making sure that workers’ voices are heard when it’s time to make critical decisions about pay, benefits, working conditions and more.
“This misguided legislation ignores the basic structure of American labor relations, in which all workers in a given company or bargaining unit are represented by the same union and covered by the same collective bargaining agreement with the same right to representation. The union is obligated to represent everyone, and it makes sense that everyone is therefore obligated to pay their fair share. In other countries, the system is different; in other countries, unions function at the national level and the federal government sits at the bargaining table to force management to agree to terms. In America, our labor relations are based on the idea that everyone benefits from the same union contract.
“Of course, the real agenda in Congress is to weaken the power of hard-working citizens by crushing the American labor movement. There’s a bitter irony here: The far-right claims to support the newly-elected president’s promise to first and foremost use the federal government to advance the interests of the American worker, but with this legislation they aim to wipe out the workers’ most dedicated advocates.
“The best way to advance the interests of the American worker is to use collective bargaining to strengthen the voice of workers on the job. Defunding the entire structure of workers’ voices will only hasten the decline of our standard of living. Shame on Reps. King and Wilson, and all those who sign off on legislation that will purposely harm American workers.”