Thursday, March 3, 2011

Wisconsin, Wyoming And Worker's Rights

Since my last post, the Wisconsin public employee's union has been ambushed by their governor in his intent to destroy their collective bargaining rights. I loved what the Democrat lawmakers did in response...left the state to avoid having a quorum to push the bill through. It took guts to tell this Republican, labor-hating clone that they wouldn't let him force them to vote against the best interests of their constituents, which also happen to be in the best interests of the state of Wisconsin. My hope meter hit the top seeing all the protesters who occupied the capitol building! Story after story hit the blogs and news outlets itemizing how the governor had made sweetheart deals with corporations giving them tax breaks...which was the real reason for the budget deficit. He was punked by someone pretending to be one of the Koch brothers by telephone and the resulting transcript of that conversation hit the internet like a tidal wave. Man, I love this age of instant communication via internet...it's hard to keep things hidden when everyone has a video camera on their cell phone and politicians are too stupid to realize that transparency is the only sensible approach! Anyway, good for the people of Wisconsin...keep fighting...who know what will happen next!

I got so intrigued by this event, that I began researching the "right to work" law. Yeah, I know, I'm retired, but I think everyone has the right to earn a decent living...and thanks to having a union pension along with my Social Security, my retirement is comfortable and I would like everyone to have this to look forward to after many years of working. Leave it to the right wing to name a law the "right to work" law...it is anything but! What it achieves is keeping wages low and the working individual essentially a slave.

I remember the Wyoming of my youth, where most of my friends fathers belonged to the United Mine Workers Union, and the trona mines were union, the construction trades were union, the railroads were union. They fought hard for the right to bargain collectively with their employers and were proud to belong to a union of brothers. Hell, I remember having a Democrat senator and a Democrat Congressman...now the state is two thirds Republican. I digress...then in 1963, the State of Wyoming became a "right to work" state. Not too long after that, my mama told me that the unemployment fund ran out of money, as I left Wyoming in 1962.

There are now twenty-two states that have the "right to work" law, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming. Overwhelmingly right wing. Corporations rule the politicians with an iron hand, one hand handing out campaign cash and the other hand poised to punish the workers in the state for even having a thought about union membership. Yes, here in Sweetwater County there are still some unions operating, but at such a small strength, that each year membership declines. With the passage of the "right to work" law, unions could still negotiate for their members, but also had many people working that didn't pay dues, so they lost strength. Yes, I know that sometimes unions were corrupt, but that happens because any organization having power can be corrupted by human greed. However, I can say that my experience as a union member is that I was well represented and was happy to pay my dues because it benefited my well-being and long term security...it was money well spent.

In researching, I stumbled upon an excellent website:http://www.wyoworkforce.org which has an abundance of information and statistics relevant to workers in Wyoming. Some of the statistics are really eye openers! I knew that the new Wyoming wasn't anything like the old Wyoming that I lived in as a child, but now I know why. The politicians have sold out to corporations and no longer represent us...corporations like Wal-Mart and Home Depot like having a captive, poor work force that don't cost too much to employ. Now you know why Wisconsin's governor and others like him are pushing to do away with collective bargaining rights, less money for the workers, much, much more money for them. Yes, you have the "right to work", but for less!

In 2008, male workers in Wyoming earned 78% of the median income level in the 50 states, and women earned 63% of the median income level in the United States. The only thing that Wyoming leads on is the mortality rate of workers killed on the job per capita...some distinction, don't you think?

Why every Wyoming worker isn't out on the street organizing for union membership and an end to the "right to work" law is beyond my comprehension. Probably too tired from working two or more jobs to make ends meet! Don't take my word for it, go to the website above and read some of the statistics. I guarantee you it will raise your blood pressure!

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