Election Year Brings More Right-Wing Attacks on Workers and Unions

March 2012 - In preparing this column, I was trying to think of a concise way to illustrate the latest round of right-wing attacks on union workers around the country.   Then Mitt Romney did it for me.  He succinctly summarized the continuing and intensifying assault on working people.

In a recent debate, the Republican presidential wannabe, trying desperately to appease the super-wealthy anti-worker zealots, who fund Republican political campaigns, repeatedly bashed unions, and by extension, union workers.

“If I become president of the United States, I will curb the practice we have in this country of giving union bosses an unfair advantage in contracting,” Romney said. “One of the first things that I will do - actually on Day One – is I will end the government’s favoritism towards unions in contracting on federal projects.”

In other words, because of unions, the lives of workers are just too good.  I’ll change that.

News reports said his audience responded with a standing ovation.  That’s not surprising, because the audience was none other than the Associated Builders and Contractors, the radical anti-union front operation that falsely claims to speak for the nation’s construction industry.   Predictably, ABC endorsed Romney right after his attacks.

Romney is against union wages and benefits for construction workers on government jobs, against allowing workers’ union dues to be used in political campaigns that favor workers’ interests.   He is promising to abolish project labor agreements that ensure fairness to workers and efficiency and quality on the job.

As this is being written, pundits are calling Mitt Romney the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for President, and he’s promising to return to the same disastrous policies that George W. Bush used to destroy the quality of life of millions of American workers.

To think there was a time when many construction workers were proud to vote Republican.  Maybe those days are gone.

Ironically, Romney, when he chaired the Utah winter Olympic Games in 2002, was a big fan of union labor and negotiated a PLA to get the necessary transportation projects done on time.  But now, because he’s a Republican presidential candidate he needs to be part of the attack frenzy.

The election year has intensified the attacks.  We remember what happened in Wisconsin a year ago, when a Republican legislature and governor ripped away the rights of workers to collectively bargain.  Republican governors in Ohio and Iowa followed suit.

Virginia just passed a law banning PLAs at the state and local level.  In Indiana, they’ve just enacted what they call a “right to work” law that should more accurately be called a “work for less” law.  That law strips workers of union-won protections of their wages, benefits, and working conditions.  It creates a “race to the bottom” by enabling employers to seek an edge in contracting by cutting corners at workers’ expense.

California’s governor and legislature aren’t advocating that kind of lunacy, but the attackers are at work here as well.  They’ve qualified a measure for this November’s ballot that if passed, will silence workers’ voices in the political arena by prohibiting union dues received through paycheck deductions to be used for political campaigns.

Anti-worker interests got this on the California ballot twice before, in 1998 and 2005, and voters rejected it both times.  But now they’ve cranked up the dishonest rhetoric by claiming that it also restricts corporations’ political spending.

In fact, it is written to silence only workers.  The ban on spending paycheck deductions on campaigns means nothing to corporations, because they don’t use paycheck deductions.  Corporations would still be able to make unlimited political expenditures, and we workers would have no way to fight back.

Sacramento Bee columnist, Dan Morain, described how the measure’s backers are hypocritically wearing the white hats of good government reformers, while in reality, are “dripping with cynicism.”  The measure would certainly silence organized labor’s voice.  “But don’t expect it to stop corporate money,” Morain concluded.

The attackers have also persuaded several cities to become charter cities so that they may exempt themselves from prevailing wage requirements, and have gotten city and county bans on PLAs enacted.

This is an all-out war, nationally and in California, by the super-wealthy against working men and women; to strip us of union-won wages, benefits and protections, and to silence our voices in the political arena.   As if the greedy bastards don’t have enough already.

In this election year, we’ll have to fight like hell to beat them.

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