Sarah and Gwen: the Two-Headed Monster

This blog is about everything involving Lexington, KY or anything else we feel like yapping about.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Stan Lee Prefiles "Right to be Fired" Bill

Representative Stan Lee has introduced legislation under the misnomer of "Kentucky Right to Work Act" which amounts to the right to be fired without cause to Kentucky workers. Let me first present the act as it is written then explain why I believe it is wrong.

AN ACT relating to contracts.

Amend KRS 336.130 to prohibit mandatory membership or financial support of a labor organization as a condition of employment, and to name this Act as the "Kentucky Right to Work Act"; amend KRS 336.180 to conform; amend KRS 336.990 to make a violation of this Act a Class D felony, award damages, and provide injunctive relief; create a new section to exempt existing contracts or agreements; and amend KRS 67A.6904, KRS 67C.406, KRS 70.262, KRS 78.470, KRS 78.480, and KRS 345.050 to conform.

(Prefiled by the sponsor(s).)
To: Interim Joint Committee on Labor and Industry

Proponents of this bill and others of this type argue that they are protecting workers by preventing them from having to pay "tribute" to a union in order to work. They claim that these act do not change any laws they just repeal provisions that authorize firing workers for refusing to pay union dues. Who could be against this except the corrupt union bosses?

The problem with this line of reasoning is that for every corrupt union official there are ten times as many corrupt companies exploiting workers and a hundred stories of corporate greed. Day by day the gap is growing wider between workers and corporate executives. Today, when the typical CEO earns as much in a day as his average employee earns in a year, we must not forget that the gap is growing through pulling labor's teeth. It is not a coincidence that the South, where right to work laws are strongest, has the highest poverty rate in the nation. Much of the income gap can be attributed directly to Right to Work legislation having the desired effect of bankrupting collective bargaining organizations.

Proponents of the legislation argue that that they are acting to protect workers who do not want unions. They tell us there are laws in place to protect workers. It is time to remind them where labor law comes from. It was not the benevolence of the government or business that we have to thank for the eight hour work day, the end of child labor, employer insurance, retirement funds, a minimum wage, paid holidays, vacation time, or sick leave. These laws were put into place through the efforts of workers collectively bargaining through their unions. They extend to all workers, but are only as strong as the labor movement.

The "right" these bills protect is the right of an employer to fire workers without cause. It is the right poultry plants use to set impossible production quotas. It is the right Wal-mart uses to abuse hard working employees and keep thousands of workers just below the hourly requirements to receive benefits. It is the right of the fast food industry to be the most public sweatshop in the world. These laws are protecting the corporate balance sheets at the expense of workers. The "Right to be Fired without Cause" is not a right I want or need. It is the right of HMO's to turn doctors into minimum wage workers and universities to pay professors less than street sweepers. Stan Lee knows this and if we look closely at why he supports this bill perhaps we could see some corporate executive prompting his concern for our welfare.


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