The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

February 5, 2013

Destroying unions will destroy middle class


Daily Item

---- — It seems the millionaires and billionaires who already control a disproportionate share of our country's wealth are not going to quit until they have all of it. While their attempt to strengthen their plutocracy suffered a setback in the 2012 elections, they are continuing their attack on the middle class.

The latest effort in Pennsylvania is the "Open Workforce Initiative," being introduced in the House of Representatives by their Republican allies, including Rep. Fred Keller (R-85). This legislation is designed solely to curtail the influence of unions which are now the only force keeping their greed somewhat in check and allowing the middle class to survive; and which coincidently tend to support Democrats.

Contrary to its wonderful sounding name, "Right-to-Work" has nothing to do with an individual's right to employment. It certainly does not guarantee anyone a job and the lack of a right-to-work law does not deprive anyone of the right to work.

Such laws are designed to reduce the membership and finances of labor unions, thus reducing their influence. These laws also allow employees to freeload off of the dues paying union members who work collectively to bargain their conditions of employment with the employer.

No public sector union in Pennsylvania may require an individual to become a member, but the union must represent all employees in the bargaining unit. It is only fair that those employees who choose not to be union members share in the costs incurred by the union to secure the wages and benefits they enjoy.

A 2011 study by the Economic Policy Institute found that in states with right-to-work laws:

n Wages are 3.2 percent lower resulting in an average of $1,500 less in annual earnings.

n The rate of employer-sponsored health insurance is 2.6 percent lower.

n The rate of employer-sponsored pensions is 4.8 percent lower.

Right-to-work laws lower wages for union and non-union workers alike and further reduce personal incomes which has a negative impact on our already struggling economy. Additionally, right-to-work laws often result in poorer, less safe working environments leading to increased employee injuries.

Clearly the beneficiaries of these "right-to-work-for-less" laws are not the employees, but the employers. That is why they are championed by employer organizations such as the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the PA Chamber of Business and Industry, and the PA Manufacturer's Association.

Finally, there is no evidence that a state becomes more attractive to business simply by having a right-to-work law. In fact, higher-wage, high-tech firms generally prefer non-right-to-work states.

Unions were responsible for the rise of the middle class. With union membership at an all-time low, the middle class is in also in steep decline. Continuing to destroy unions will continue to destroy the middle class which appears to be the goal of our new robber barons.

David B. Kyle,

New Columbia