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Commentary
The 'Right to Work' amendment: Unfair, unsafe, and unnecessary

From the Minneapolis Labor Review, February 24, 2012

By Bill McCarthy, President, Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation

Minnesota workers and their unions are under attack. Read stories in this issue of the Labor Review and you’ll learn about some of these current struggles. Workers in all occupations need strong unions, unions that allow workers to bargain collectively with employers for the benefit of all the workers in the workplace.

Now the same out-of-state corporate CEOs who have taken away union rights in other states have brought their campaign to Minnesota, seeking to weaken collective bargaining here through a constitutional amendment.

Legislators have introduced a constitutional amendment that would put this language on the November 2012 ballot:

“Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to guarantee all citizens the individual freedom to decide to join or not join a labor union, and to pay or not pay dues to a labor union?”

The misleading ballot question, however, doesn’t inform voters about what’s really going to happen if the amendment language that’s not printed on the ballot becomes law.

No matter what deceptive names they give this amendment — “Right to Work” or “Employee Freedom” — the result would be to weaken collective bargaining, weaken unions, weaken the union contracts that support a middle class.

Contact your state legislators and urge them to focus on creating jobs, not on passing unnecessary amendments!

This amendment is unnecessary, unfair, and unsafe. Here’s why.

Unnecessary

The amendment is unnecessary because current Minnesota law already provides that no one in Minnesota can be forced to join a union. Also the Supreme Court has ruled that unionized workers cannot be forced to pay dues for union political activities if they disagree.

Unfair

Under federal law, unions must represent all workers in the workplace. Current law does not require workers to join a union or pay dues but the law does allow unions to charge non-members “fair share” fees to cover the costs of representation and bargaining. The amendment, however, would eliminate unions’ current ability under the law to collect “fair share” fees. Cheaters could game the system at the expense of employees who work hard and play by the rules.

Unsafe

Everyone benefits when union contracts help police, firefighters, teachers, nurses, snowplow drivers and construction workers to negotiate strong safety standards that protect all of our families. Weaken collective bargaining and we put all our families at risk.

Get involved!

We can stop this amendment but we need you to get involved and help stop this attack on collective bargaining at the legislature — before it goes on the November ballot.

Here’s what you can do:

• Come to a briefing sponsored by the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation to learn more (see schedule).

• Visit www.WeAreMinnesota.org to pledge to take action and stay up-to-date.

• Talk to co-workers, neighbors, friends and family and alert them to this attack on the middle class.

• Contact your state legislators and urge them to focus on creating jobs, not on passing unnecessary amendments.

We are talking with friends of Labor in both parties in the legislature who share our concerns. With your help, we can stop this unfair, unsafe and unnecessary constitutional amendment.

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