Talk to your friends about Right to Work

Editor’s Note: Bobby Kasper is president of the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, which represents more than 100 local unions and their 50,000 members in Ramsey, Washington, Dakota and Chisago counties. The St. Paul RLF publishes The Union Advocate newspaper. Kasper wrote this “Labor Voices” column for the March 2012 Union Advocate.

As union members we control our own destiny. We are under attack by the anti-union forces that are sweeping this country, most notably a so-called “Right to Work” amendment making its way through the Minnesota Legislature. These laws are nothing more than another attack on the American worker, another attack on the middle class.

We cannot sit back. We cannot wait and see whether state lawmakers, looking to repay the corporations and wealthy donors who put them in office, will put a Right to Work constitutional amendment on the ballot next fall. We need to get the word out now.

Right to Work is wrong for Minnesota.

Contrary to its name, Right to Work doesn’t guarantee workers any rights. Instead, it allows some workers to choose to pay nothing – and still enjoy the rights and protections of a union contract others are paying dues to maintain. That makes it harder for unions to bargain for contracts that improve workers’ wages, benefits and working conditions.

In fact, workers in Right to Work states earn, on average, $6,150 less that workers in Minnesota. What’s more, Minnesota has fewer workplace injuries, better public schools and a higher percentage of people with health insurance coverage than states with Right to Work laws on the books.

So who thinks Right to Work is a good idea? Corporations and CEOs do, of course – and so do the politicians they helped put into office. Is it any surprise that the same politicians who bailed out Wall Street are now going after struggling middle-class workers with Right to Work?

At the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation, we need your help spreading the word about what this divisive legislation would mean for our state. By volunteering with the RLF – whether at a phone bank, a worksite leafletting or a member-education initiative – you can do your part to preserve the quality of life middle class Minnesotans have enjoyed for generations.

Our fight always seems like it’s an uphill battle, and oftentimes it is. However, just as often our union sisters and brothers have prevailed in their own fight for a pursuit of the American dream – the right to have health care, education and a fair wage.

These seemingly basic principles have only come about when union members have joined together to speak with one voice. We have a responsibility to ourselves, to our children and to our elders to take up the fight to retain our real rights.

We need you to tell your friends, family and co-workers how bad Right to Work really is.

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