January 2011

Electoral Divide a Challenge to Working Families
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The "wave election" last November that precipitated the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives also resulted in a GOP takeover of both legislative chambers and governorships in 20 states, while the Democrats control all three in 10 states.

Some newly-elected leaders—mostly Republicans—pushed anti-worker proposals during their campaigns—like ending prevailing wage protections or initiating union-busting right-to-work laws. While the new political alignment could result in the enactment of these measures, International Representative Dan Gardner, IBEW Political and Legislative Affairs Department, cautions local unions against writing off opportunities for progress at the state level or "spending all of our time playing defense"—no matter which party is in control.

As an example, says Gardner, Republicans who campaigned pledging to reduce state and federal deficits should be urged to support legislation penalizing businesses that misclassify workers as independent contractors. Misclassification has hurt IBEW members in the telecommunications, broadcasting and construction sectors by creating an uneven playing field for wages and benefits and preventing workers from organizing (See "Cheating Workers Out of Rights, Benefits," The Electrical Worker, June 2010).

Requiring unscrupulous businesses to start paying Social Security, Medicare and unemployment insurance taxes that they are now evading could bring up to $8 billion of lost revenue into state budgets over the next decade and enable workers who are currently cheated out of rights to organize.

Gardner, who formerly served as Oregon's labor secretary, says that states have always been the proving grounds for federal legislation. When 40 percent of the states pass similar legislation, the federal government starts paying attention, says Gardner. Keeping the ball rolling on job-creating projects is important.

Some newly-elected governors have already rejected federal stimulus funds for projects, including planned high-speed rail lines in Ohio and Wisconsin. Gardner said members should continue to contact legislators in both political parties for support. If they are serious about reducing deficits, says Gardner, they should support putting more money into school construction and transportation projects to put unemployed workers, including IBEW members, back to work, allowing them to contribute to our nation's economic recovery.

Read more: Fighting for Our Future: Putting Jobs First

Read more: Now What? How Will 'Wave' Election Affect Workers?

Read more: Getting Involved Locally, 101

Read more: Jobs: A Good Investment

Read more: How NOT to Cut the Deficit

Republicans control 20 state houses and governors' mansions.