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Labor Perspective From USW President Leo Gerard: How The Government Shutdown ‘Exposed The Lie At The Heart’ Of The Anti-Union Right-To-Work (For Less) Movement

Published Monday, January 28, 2019
by United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard
Labor Perspective From USW President Leo Gerard: How The Government Shutdown ‘Exposed The Lie At The Heart’ Of The Anti-Union Right-To-Work (For Less) Movement

Thousands of Federal Employees protested at the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. last week, holding aloft empty plates during 33 minutes of silence - one minute for each day of the government shutdown.

Some plates carried the message: “Will work for pay.”

Unions representing the 800,000 Federal Workers who were either locked out or forced to work without pay organized the demonstration.  It was supported by the Federation of Labor Unions, the AFL-CIO, and many other Unions including the Teamsters, UNITE HERE and Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Since the day in December that Republican President Donald Trump shut down the government, the Unions representing Government Workers, including the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE) and the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS), supported their Members by organizing public protests across the country, establishing food banks and filing lawsuits to reopen government.

These are the organizations - Unions - that reactionary Far-Right Groups have spent the last seven months urging workers to quit.

“Get out now that you can,” the Right-Wingers calling themselves Right-To-Work Patrons told Public Sector Employees in YouTube videos, Facebook ads, tweets, telephone calls and door-to-door solicitations.

They spent millions trying to kill Unions that are now buttressing Federal Workers.

So where were those Right-To-Work (for less) Groups during the shutdown?

Where was that National Right to Work (RTW) Foundation when hundreds of thousands of Federal Workers were locked out of their jobs and really wanted the right to work - with pay?

Nobody’s heard a peep from them.

That’s because they’re all bogus.

They’re not about a right to work.

They’re about destroying Unions and the higher wages and better benefits that collective bargaining gets for Workers.

They’re not going to help Federal Workers get back on the job.

They’re interested only in ensuring the millionaires and billionaires that bankroll Right-To-Work keep more money in their pockets while Workers get less.

Here’s the bottom line right from the U.S. Department of Labor earlier this month: The typical Union Member earns $191 more a week than a Non-Union Worker.

That’s money the Union Worker can spend on decent housing, a reliable car, a new golf club or trip to the spa.

That spending gins up the economy, creating jobs for other Workers.

It pulls more Workers into the Middle Class.

By contrast, for Non-Union Workers, it’s $191 for every one of them every week that is put in the pockets of fat-cat CEOs and already-wealthy stockholders.

The 1%ers use some of that extra cash to finance Right-To-Work Groups, including those that call themselves sanctimonious and deceptive names like “The Fairness Center” and the “Freedom Foundation” while they plot to destroy the collective bargaining that gets $191 more for Union Workers.

Last June, the deceptive groups thought they’d scored a death blow to Public Sector Unions.

Ultra-conservative 1%ers had bankrolled a lawsuit all the way up to the now ultra-conservative U.S. Supreme Court.

It was called Janus v. AFSCME and those 1%ers got what they paid for.

The court majority overturned a 40-year-old precedent and said that from now on, Public Sector Workers who chose not to join the Union could no longer be charged a small fee to cover the cost of collective bargaining and other Union services.

However, Federal Law still requires Unions to provide these services to Non-Members at organized workplaces.

The deceptive groups believed Janus would starve Public Sector Unions to death as they hired staff for collective bargaining and lawyers to represent Workers in grievances while Workers stopped paying for those services.

But Public Sector Unions didn’t die.

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