All of the anti-union actions happening throughout the country are basically rear-guard actions, fighting to defend turf rather than expand it. But the Wisconsin battle definitely changed the tenor of these fights. The public has a newfound appreciation for workers’ rights and collective bargaining, right-wing governors who pushed these plans are becoming horribly unpopular along with the legislation they’re carrying – the SB 5 citizen’s veto, should it come to that, in Ohio will be a major test of this proposition – and in general, the landscape has changed. Most important is the progressive solidarity around the issue – I’m seeing groups like Color of Change connect the right to organize and collectively bargain to civil rights issues and protection against discrimination, whether in the workplace or civil society.
If you were to ask me whether Missouri would be able to get a right-to-work-for-less bill, which would basically bust the private unions, out of its pretty conservative legislature, I’d have to say that was likely. Missouri has a Democratic governor, Jay Nixon, so it may have stopped there. But passage in the legislature seemed likely. It didn’t happen.
Senate Minority Leader Victor Callahan (D) said supporters of “right to work” for less legislation who claim it will attract more businesses to the state might as well be arguing “let us race to become more competitive by emulating the Third World…
“Through unions and good jobs we created a middle class. The middle class didn’t cause recession, Big Banks did.”
Tweeting from last night’s session, Cathy Sherwin, the Missouri AFL-CIO communications director, noted that opposition to the bill crossed party lines, including Sen. Kevin Engler (R) who said his parents’ union membership benefited both the family and the state.
“Because my parents had good union benefits, my parents are going into a nursing home with NO state benefits needed at no cost to state.”
Senate leaders said they would not bring the bill back up this week and it was uncertain if it would be on the agenda after the legislature’s spring break next week.
5,000 people filled the state capital last week to protest the bill, and 500 workers sat in the State Senate gallery last night bearing witness. They were able to stare down the majority Republicans.
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Before long, these rearguard actions will have to be matched with tangible gains for American workers. That needs to be done through un-rigging the rules that make it so difficult for labor to organize. But for now, it’s satisfying that the great union-busting sweep envisioned by the Koch Brothers and other leading lights of the conservative movement is meeting fierce resistance.