Politics as Usual Targets Workers in States

In Minnesota, they want to want to end the jobs of 15 percent of the men and women in the state workforce. In Tennessee, they want to take away right of teachers join unions. In Ohio, they want to eliminate collective bargaining rights for home health care and child care workers and restrict the bargaining rights of police officers and fire fighters. Who are they?

They are the new Republican governors and state legislators who are playing politics with the lives of workers and endangering the middle class. This trio of examples is just a small sample of the anti-worker legislation that is moving through state legislatures—where elected officials could and should be focusing on creating jobs. Click here, here and here for more.

Many of the legislators and governors elected last year with the support of massive corporate campaign spending now are pushing legislation and initiatives that would cut middle-class jobs, depress wages and weaken workers’ rights.

Under the guise of education reform, Tennessee Republican lawmakers have introduced a bill that would end collective bargaining rights for teachers. Jerry Winters from the Tennessee Education Association tells the Associated Press the bill “is an insult to every teacher in the state…it’s really an anti-employee bill.”

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) promised during his campaign to strip the right to organize away from 14,000 state-financed child care and home care workers and eliminate way with binding arbitration for police and fire unions.

Ella Hopkins, a certified child care provider says Kasich’s action is an attack aimed directly at workers and their union. (video)

"I don’t believe it has anything to do with the state budget problems. Because we never negotiated a higher rate anyway, so it’s [the right to join a union] is at no additional cost to the state."

John Russo, coordinator of the labor studies program at Youngstown State University says:

"The attack is on the people that take care of your kids, who protect you from crime, who put out your fires, who plow your roads. I think it’s a real teaching moment to the public to say, “Why are they targeting these people really engaged in public service?”"

In Minnesota, Senate and House bills have been introduced to slash the state workforce by 15 percent. At a recent hearing on the bill, Eliot Seide, AFSCME Council 5 Executive Director Elliot Seide, told lawmakers the bill would have a disastrous impact on the state’s economy and slash vital services police protection to health care to education. Similar job-cutting legislation us under consideration in other states.

Every time you lay off another worker, Main Street loses a customer.

The bill’s backers claim the state workforce has grown out of control. But, Seide pointed U.S. Census Bureau data that shops, Seide said Minnesota’s government has the 10th-lowest ratio of state workers per resident in the country. He also pointed out that the state’s work force shrank 11 percent under Pawlenty and that workers have seen four wage freezes in the past eight years.

The Republican myth is that Minnesota’s government has been growing, and in fact it’s been shrinking by every measure you can put together.

by Mike Hall, Jan 26, 2011,  AFL-CIO Now News Blog