UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Unions & Union Rights under fierce attack in USA

Amongst the news reports on Jimmy Saville's serial sex crimes, the Royal rush to hospital with morning sickness and the continued denigration of the poor, you may have noticed that union members in Michigan USA were demonstrating over something called the `Right To Work` Bill (RTW). Far from being a progressive statute to increase employment rights and terms it is designed to finally break trade unions:

US unions are in a terrible situation. They have less than 12% density overall and less than 7% in the private sector. Now they are broken down state by state through the adoption of right to work legislation. The right wing monsters claim that the legislation creates employment by removing the biggest obstacle to employment flexibility and efficiency - collective bargaining.

Unions are forbidden from closed shop agreements and union deduction arrangements. If there is a recognised trade union then they have to provide representation for all employees, members or not. This so called `free rider` provision has been challenged and some State courts have awarded unions a payment from employees who have received services but this is always less than the union dues that would have been paid.

What can we learn? That US unions don`t have any answers to union decline around the world and particularly in Europe?

I am sure they wouldn`t claim that, a little modesty would be appropriate. But this situation has occurred already in New Zealand and Australia. Union Organising is slowly turning the tide there. The Australians refer to union decline as like being `frogged` - to boil a frog you start it in a tepid water and turn the heat up slowly so the frog doesn`t realise what is happening. What this situation represents is a state sponsored attack on the Right to Organise and after two decades since Thatcher we are getting warmed up for the next stage in the UK.

There is a fight back taking place in the US. Today is the latest Day of Global Action against Wal Mart. Houston Janitors recently celebrated a stunning union victory - in the Right to Work State of Texas. So lets not kill off the US unions just yet:

What we can see is how the right wing present this argument. A Market Watch article makes an argument that implies that some states are better off economically because of the RTW law. It claims that workers are voting with their feet and moving to these states. The reality is that this union crushing blow is driving people to lower paid non unionised states or face personal ruin. The American Dream comes true. Right to Work states have 3.2% lower average wages, 2.6% less Health Care cover, 4.8% less pensions provision and only a 1% lower unemployment rate - figures that are strangely absent from this `analysis`: