Rolling Back Workers’ Rights, But Fight not Over
October 17, 2014
In Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida and beyond, the secretive American Legislative Exchange Council has left its fingerprints on nearly all laws in the past three years designed to dismantle employees’ gains at the bargaining table. Collective bargaining? Prevailing wage? Project labor agreements? ALEC has targeted them all.
ALEC creates a conduit between large corporations and anti-union state legislators to draft so-called “model legislation” to benefit company interests, often at the expense of public employees.
Now, ALEC has a new strategy: going after cities and counties. ALEC’s spinoff group, the American City County Exchange, was behind a successful June effort to terminate collective bargaining for 500 public employees – including 60 IBEW members – in Fort Wayne, Ind.
ACCE says its goal is to use free-market principles to save municipalities money.
“This isn’t about saving money, it’s about busting unions,” said Local 723 Business Manager Bruce Getts, who represented dozens of Fort Wayne workers. “This vote is a forewarning for union activists and those who support public employees to get out in front of these kinds of laws if they see them coming.”
Trade unionists aren’t the only ones taking note. John Court, chair of the Allen County Democratic Party, sees the anti-worker push as a call to action this election season. Fort Wayne is the county seat of Allen County. In a recent op-ed in the city’s Journal Gazette, Court writes:
Sadly, the GOP political agenda to weaken the working and middle classes has never been more apparent than in this drive to eliminate collective bargaining for so many city employees – the very men and women who built this city and have worked to make this a great place to live.
The six GOP lawmakers in the city council hold a supermajority over the three Democrats. All Republicans voted June 24 to overturn collective bargaining.
Referencing last winter’s especially brutal conditions in the area, Court wrote that the council’s three pro-worker Democrats “have been at the table to remind the Republican councilmen of the dedication and sacrifice made by city employees this past winter – and during every severe weather incident and crisis our city has faced:”
Our citizens … stand with the workers and the hundreds of police, fire, labor and non-labor workers who overflowed from City Council chambers in opposition to these measures and whose voices fell on deaf ears.
The ability to collectively bargain has accounted for improved working conditions, retirement security and greater accountability in both the public and private sectors.
Allen County candidates will be vying for several county council seats on Nov. 4, as well as state and national positions.
State Senate candidate Jack Morris supports getting the middle class back to work with fair wages and benefits: “A free market works only if it is a fair market. When we promote business at the expense of the worker by allowing unfair wages, unsafe work conditions, and no health care, the economy collapses.”
Justin Kuhnle, who is running for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, has come out in favor of bolstering the county’s infrastructure. “The American Civil Engineering Society came out recently with their five year plan pointing to 13 areas of infrastructure concerns that have been neglected,” he said. “All communities will benefit from focusing on these true job creators, putting Hoosiers back to work. I will work tirelessly to ensure the needs of our community are met and addressed including funding the National Highway Trust Fund.”
Morris and Kuhnle are both endorsed by the Indiana state AFL-CIO. Indiana voters can click here to see which candidates are on the side of working families.
“Our community can do better then what the GOP is offering,” Court wrote. “Our citizens deserve better representation, and the change will begin this fall.”