When labor unions began over a century ago, they served a very useful and vital purpose. They helped improve working conditions and eliminated the ‘sweat shop.’ They also helped get union members better wages and benefits.
Over time, unions grew too powerful for their own good and in many instances today, they do more harm than good. They have driven many companies out of business by trying to extort unrealistically high wages and benefits that many employers cannot afford to pay. The end result was instead of the workers getting more as promised by the union, they ended up out of work with no income or benefits, which union officials continued to reap their fat salaries and dine in luxury.
Some years back, efforts were made to curtail the powers and influence of labor unions who demanded that anyone working in certain industries had to join the union and pay monthly dues. One-by-one, some states began seeing the dangers of powerful labor unions and passed laws giving workers the right to work without being forced to join a union and pay dues. These are called right to work states.
I’ve seen firsthand the damage that powerful unions can inflict on the workers. Years ago, the labor unions of the copper miners in Arizona insisted on going on strike. They were demanding so much from the copper companies that it would have put them out of business. So, on strike they went.
Two months into the strike, the mining companies wanted to talk and negotiate a settlement with the unions, but union officials refused to negotiate and walked out of the meetings. This continued for 9 months with union officials refusing to budge. The same union officials continued to draw their fat salaries and dine under their own roofs. However, hundreds of miners were without any income. They couldn’t pay for their housing, their cars, food and clothes for their families. Hundreds of them were evicted and their vehicles repossessed. Many families broke up and marriages dissolved because of the financial stress of not having an income. Thousands of lives were destroyed by the refusal of union officials to actually sit down and negotiate. By the time the strike was finally settled and mines re-opened, hundreds of families had already been destroyed. I knew some of these families and knew firsthand the irreparable damage caused by the unions.
Some years later when my dad was working for a utility, his union was talking about going on strike. Dad informed them that he would cross the picket line and continue working because his family was more important than the union. When enough other workers said they would cross the picket line and work because they couldn’t afford not to work, the union officials sat down and worked out a contract that benefitted all.
Last summer, West Virginia became the 26th state to pass right to work legislation allowing anyone to work in any industry without being forced to join a union and pay union dues.
I live in Kentucky and currently, we are not a right to work state (commonwealth). In fact, Kentucky has very much been a ‘good ole boy’ state in many ways, catering to employers and landlords.
A year ago, the people of Kentucky elected a Republican governor, Matt Bevin, who replaced Democrat Steve Beshear, a true Obama disciple. In this past election, more Republicans were voted into state office. As the new 2017 legislative session opened this week, one of the first things that happened in both houses was the introduction of right to work laws.
If a recent report is any indicator, it appears that Kentucky just might become the 27th right to work state in the nation. The Huffington Post reported:
“Kentucky Republicans opened 2017 by introducing a slate of anti-union bills in both chambers of the state legislature, including legislation that would make the state the last in the South to adopt a so-called ‘right-to-work’ law.”
“Targeting unions has been a priority for the Kentucky GOP in past years, though Democratic control of the governor’s seat and state House kept right-to-work and other legislation from passing. But Gov. Matt Bevin (R) won election in 2015, and Republicans swept their way to their first majority in the state House in nearly a century in November, paving the way for an ambitious agenda with right-to-work at the top of the list.”
“The proposed right-to-work bills, the first of which a state House committee approved Wednesday after a brief hearing, would end requirements that employees pay fees to a union. These bills would gut Kentucky’s unions politically and hurt their workers, local labor officials said.”
Late yesterday afternoon, the Kentucky House passed the right to work bill by a 58-39 vote. This could only have been accomplished with the change in the make-up of the Kentucky House. For more than a century, union loving Democrats have controlled the House, but that all ended in November when Republicans grabbed a majority 64 seats to only 36 seats still in the hands of Democrats. Obviously, Kentucky voters are tired of business as usual and have turned to the GOP for positive changes.
For the sake of so many in Kentucky who work hard and are forced to pay monthly union dues, I hope and pray that the right to work laws passes the Senate and are signed by Gov. Bevin. Republicans also control the state senate 27 seats to only 11 Democrats, which should guarantee passage of the right to work bills.
To think that workers starting out at the local Kroger store earn $7.50 an hour for part time work and are forced to pay part of that to the union every month. Not having to pay union dues could help put a little more bread and meat of the table for their families.