Message from the President
There’s a phrase I used to hear fairly often. “I vote for the person, not the party.” I usually heard it whenever someone needed to avoid a conversation moving too uncomfortably close to politics. I don’t hear that much anymore. Perhaps our politics have become so polarized the personal qualities of a candidate no longer seem to matter. Or maybe it’s because over time our local has taken a less active role engaging members on policy issues that impact our union and our working lives.
I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately for reasons having little to do with the fallout from impeachment, the latest poll numbers or candidate debate. Don’t get me wrong, I understand why people pay attention to all of those things. But while all of that gets plenty of press, the policy and regulatory decisions that are taking a real toll on Unions and working folks in general rarely make headlines.
Take a recent decision by the National Labor Relations Board as example. There was a time when a company controlling an employee’s work and workday was recognized as the employer of record responsible for everything from salary and benefits to employment taxes and unemployment insurance. Not anymore. A few weeks ago, the NLRB decided to give companies who control the work a green light to off-load employment responsibilities to third party contractors.
The NLRB hasn’t stopped there. They’re now taking on the state of Oregon arguing that state’s law granting Weingarten Rights to all state workers is pre-empted by federal law.
I’m hoping Weingarten Rights are familiar to members. It’s a right bestowed on represented employees to have a union rep present during a disciplinary meeting (for a copy of the text, see the bottom of this newsletter). Once under President Clinton and then again under President Obama, Weingarten Rights were extended by Executive Order to all private sector workers only to have President Bush and more recently President Trump, rescind them. Oregon’s attempt to protect workers may soon be thwarted by the very agency established to, you guessed it, protect workers.
The erosion of the employer – employee relationship and the assault on worker’s rights is real. With the number of private sector workers represented by unions at historic lows and wealth disparity among all Americans at historic highs, there’s little question that policy and politics are having profound effects on workers, unions and how fairly the economy treats us all.
Wisconsin is again shaping up to be a battle-ground state this year. With all the noise that is sure to come at us from campaigns or about horse races, our challenge will be to stay focused on policy issues that unite us as a Union and that will help us improve the working lives of all. In the coming months we’ll be sharing information about local, state and federal issues that we believe align with that goal. More importantly, we’ll be asking your support and creating opportunities for holding candidates accountable to our mission and purpose, because in this Union you are why politics matter.