Right-to-Work (Cheap) Constitutional Amendment Back on Alabama Legislative Agenda

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By Glynn Wilson

Alabama is already a so-called Right-to-Work state, a phrase that must have been written by some Orwellian political operative like Karl Rove who twist words into things that are the exact opposite of what they mean to confuse citizens and appeal to certain kinds of voters at election time.

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Alabama AFL-CIO President Al Henley speaks to labor union and progressive activists in Linn Park

But that will not stop the Republican Supermajority in the Alabama Legislature from trying again this year to pass a bill that would put the Right-to-Work issue on the election year ballot to enshrine the concept in the state’s already overloaded and outdated Constitution.

A bill to do just that has already been pre-filed again this year, to the consternation of Alabama AFL-CIO President Al Henley, who sent out an e-mail blast urging union leaders and members to flood the legislature with calls in opposition.

“It is not surprising that Senator Dial would re-introduce this unnecessary legislation. There are no violations of the existing statute so putting Right-to-Work for less in the constitution is an extreme waste of time and money,” Henley said in an e-mail statement. “Senator Dial is almost 80 years old and has spent most of his life on the taxpayers payroll, so he knows it is a waste, which leads most logical thinking people to believe he is only doing it to raise money from the big business special interests for his troubled reelection bid.”

The Senate Business and Labor Committee approved passage of a similar bill last year. But the measure died in the bill hopper on the last day of the legislative session when time ran out.

The little publicized move to pass the bill was expected by capital insiders, but not covered at all by any news organization in the state, save this one.

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

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 free-loading.”

In right-to-work states, workers make $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.”

Watch the video of last year’s Senate committee hearing here. This is unlike any coverage you will ever see out of Montgomery by the lamestream media in Alabama.

Related Link

Read the bill here.

© 2014, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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