Senate Business and Labor Committee Votes 5-3 to Approve Right-to-Work Law

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By Glynn Wilson

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Alabama Senate Business and Labor Committee approved passage of a bill that would add the so-called “right-to-work” statute into the state constitution, if approved by a vote of the people. The little publicized move was expected by capital insiders, and now the measure moves on to a full vote in the Senate.

The 5-3 committee vote margin divided along party lines, with the Republicans pushing and supporting it and Democrats opposed.

Senator Geral Dial of Lineville sponsored the bill, saying it would further promote business recruitment to the state.

But State Senator Rodger Smitherman of Birmingham called it “unnecessary” and “an assault on workers rights.”

“It happened in Michigan, Minnisota (and Wisconsin) too,” he said. It’s “basically trying to bust up the unions.”

The big corporations and Republicans, he said, “don’t want people to have the right for people to come together in assembly for what they have. It’s not deterred one bit of investment. I just think it’s an assault on working people. Nobody’s mandatory made to join the unions now. I just fundamentally disagree with it.”

Al Henley of the AFL-CIO testified that organized labor is “dead set against this legislation. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. We call it the right to work for less law. It allows for freeloading.”

In right-to-work states, workers may $1,540 a year less than workers in non-right-to-work states, he said. Median household incomes in right-to-work states is $6,437 below those in other states. In those states, workers are more likely to have health insurance.

“It’s one more cog in the wheel that holds Alabama workers down,” Henley testified. “Strong union density in a state creates a strong economy. To put right-to-work in the constitution is a horrible idea, and union members all over Alabama are much opposed to it.”

Harrison Whisenant of UA Local 91 in Birmingham said the law already says an employee cannot be required to join a union as a condition of employment. It also says an employer cannot deny someone a job because of their membership in a union.

“Sounds simple enough,” he said. “I too think it’s right to work for less.”

He said it seems as if the Republicans “want to over-legislate things, because we’re afraid the people of this may change their minds… I just don’t see any need in it. I think it’s a waste of your time and taxpayers money to put this up (for a vote) as a constitutional amendment.”

© 2013, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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