The Electrical Worker online
March 2016

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Who Cares About Your Paycheck?

While nearly all of U.S. political attention has focused on the presidential election, the future of working America is being decided in the states. If you haven't been following it too closely, I don't believe I am overstating it when I call it a disaster.

The West Virginia legislature passed so-called right-to-work laws in February with enough votes to overrule the expected veto. That means more than half the states now tell workers and their employers what kind of contracts they will allow. If the contract you signed with your employer requires every person represented by a union to pay their share, well, the politicians in 26 states have decided they don't like that.

Twenty states now make it nearly impossible to make decent wages and benefits and local or minority hiring standards a requirement for companies that win public contracts. By outlawing project labor agreements, they give an enormous advantage to bidders that simply promise to do it the cheapest, a strategy that no sane person or responsible company follows anywhere.

Time after time, vote after vote, state elected officials are bundling up their citizens and selling them off for scrap. They get away with it not by lying but because most voters have no idea what they are doing.

If we are honest, how many of us know who our state representatives are or what they are doing to our paychecks?

Five days a week, we come to work to be useful and make a difference, but also because that is where we get paid. Well, today our paychecks are being decided in election booths and too many of us are still not showing up there.

We will have time before the November election to talk about what kind of lawmakers we believe will fight for working people. We are launching a grass-roots political campaign that will extend to every part of this country in hundreds of locals by Election Day.

But my message today is much simpler: please register by April.

By the end of this month, everybody under our roofs should be registered to vote. Your child who moved back home because they couldn't find a job: encourage him or her to register. Your parents who moved in because the banks swallowed the retirement savings they thought they would have: implore them to register.

Even if you have voted in every election since your 18th birthday, election offices are overrun these days with clever people clearing voter rolls like it was a sport. Double check that your name is still there.

And for the people you work with every day, ask gently, but be insistent. Because if we don't care about what is in our paycheck, there will only ever be less.


Also: Chilia: Honoring Our Heroes Read Chilia's Column

Lonnie R. Stephenson

Lonnie R. Stephenson
International President