Anti-union ballot initiatives yet another attack on the 99 percent

Today, voters will head to the polls in Ohio and determine the political fate of Senate Bill 5, a bill that would severely limit collective bargaining for the state’s public workers. The referendum on the controversial bill comes just a few months after similar legislation passed in Wisconsin, which was greeted with massive public outcry and protests, culminating in efforts to recall both Democratic and Republican state legislators.

Meanwhile, in California, an initiative has been proposed that would re-introduce so-called ‘paycheck protection,’ which would limit unions’ ability to represent their members’ interests in the political realm. All of these bills are supported almost exclusively by Republicans, who argue that stripping away rights for public servants will somehow generate private sector growth while simultaneously erasing government debt.

There’s an often overlooked motivation for this anti-union legislation: Each bill would significantly limit the workers’ ability, through their unions, to effectively participate in the political process. This is particularly important when one considers that unions represent one of the only counterweights to corporate influence in politics, and offer one of the few avenues through which the 99 percent are given an opportunity to shape the policy choices of our country.

A small portion of the dues union members pay (estimated at around 4.3 percent) is spent directly on engaging in politics—mostly through mobilization of union members (and sometimes those not belonging to unions) on behalf of pro-worker candidates and policies. Each election cycle, the labor movement recruits and trains hundreds of thousands of volunteers to educate and inform the public about issues that affect their everyday lives; these volunteers help make it easier to vote, and encourage political participation from often marginalized communities and individuals.

In a post-Citizens United world of essentially unlimited private spending on political persuasion, it is more vital than ever that legislators allows for multiple voices to be heard when deciding on policies that affect all of us. But if anti-worker politicians and corporate interests succeed in driving down union membership, everyday Americans—union members and non-union members alike—will have even less of a voice in politics.

It’s critical that voters recognize the true intent of many of these anti-worker bills: in addition to eroding essential workers’ rights, a fundamental goal is to eviscerate the political voice of the 99 percent.

As unemployed Americans occupy our cities’ streets demanding substantive action against banks and other corporations for pushing this country into the deepest recession in generations, this voice is needed now more than ever. Here’s hoping that the general public clearly expresses its support not only for protecting workers’ rights, but also for maintaining a crucial voice in our country’s governance.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 8th, 2011 at 12:24 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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