The Electrical Worker online
March 2017

Congressional Republicans Introduce
National Right-to-Work Law
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Emboldened by the frenzied first days of single-party control of the federal government, Republicans in Congress took aim on Feb. 1 at a longtime target — working people.

Reps. Steve King of Iowa and Joe Wilson of South Carolina introduced a bill in the House of Representatives to enact a national right-to-work law, legislation aimed at destroying unions that would likely lower wages across the county.

The laws, already in force in 28 states, prohibit union security agreements, which require workers to contribute to the costs of collective bargaining and legal representation provided by the local on their behalf. Axing dues requirements leads to freeloading, union leaders say.

"Imagine you're a member of a hunting club, and somebody passes a law tomorrow saying I can walk into your club and use your facilities, drink your beer, shoot all the deer I want, but you can't charge me a dime in membership fees,'" said Fourth District International Representative Neil Gray. "You wouldn't like that very much, would you? Well, right-to-work works the same way."

In right-to-work states, workers at union-represented shops can opt out of dues payments, unfairly putting the burden for representation costs on their co-workers while still reaping all of the benefits of belonging to a union.

"The IBEW and other unions are required by law to go to bat for every single worker in a bargaining unit," Gray said. Whether it's negotiating a contract or sending staff and lawyers to represent an employee if they're unfairly disciplined or fired, union dues are the only way to ensure those services are available.

"The real aim of right-to-work is to deplete your local's treasury to the point it can't represent you effectively," said Dan Gardner, an international representative in the Political and Legislative Department. "That changes the balance of power in negotiations with an employer, and it results in you losing money."

Studies show that working people — union and nonunion — in right-to-work states earn 12 percent less than workers in neighboring states because unions raise the baseline for everyone. That's more than $6,000 dollars less per year on average.

Moreover, weakening unions tips the scales of power in favor of big corporations, which means laws mandating basic workplace safety protections and fair wages are often among the first things to go out the window.

King has also introduced a bill with Sen. Mike Lee of Utah calling for the full repeal of Davis-Bacon prevailing wage requirements for all federally-funded projects. That could mean huge pay cuts for union construction members on highways, hospitals, schools and more.

"These Republican politicians talk a lot about states' rights, but that only applies when they're out of power," said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson. "Now that they're in charge, they're happy to trample on states that understand the power for working people to join together and collectively bargain is a huge benefit to the economy. We're going to do everything we can to stop these attacks coming after your paychecks."

Find your representatives in Congress at and ask them to fight against right-to-work and Davis-Bacon attacks in Washington.