Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Attack on Middle-Class Jobs, Workers Is Nationwide

March 16th, 2011 | Mike Hall

Image: Mike HallThe incredible response and mobilizations against the coordinated attacks on workers’ rights and middle-class jobs in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana have grabbed most of the media spotlight during the past few weeks.

But there are other serious assaults under way in dozens of states, pushed by corporate CEOs and their Republican puppets. Perhaps flying lowest under the radar is one of the most drastic measures, one that even its own supporters blatantly call Michigan’s “financial martial law.”

The so-called emergency managers bill would allow Gov. Rick Snyder (R) to declare a “financial emergency” in a city or school district and appoint a manager with broad powers, including the ability to fire local elected officials, break contracts, seize and sell assets, eliminate services—and even eliminate whole cities or school districts without any public input, according to the Michigan Messenger.

Last week, more than 1,500 people jammed the Lansing Capitol building to protest the bill during the state Senate’s debate. Ken Bower, a United Steelworker (USW) Local 2-21 member from Escanaba, Mich., said:

I’m here to tell the governor that he has to stop this attack on working-class citizens. Removing the people that we put into office without any check or balance is completely undemocratic.

U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) warns that that the bill:

empowers this financial czar with the governor’s approval to force a municipality into bankruptcy, a power that will surely be used to extract further concessions from hardworking public-sector workers.

Different versions of the bill have passed the state Senate and House and final action is expected early this week.usw_photo_wp

In a related note from Michigan, if there is any question what side Snyder stands on—CEOs’ or working people’s—his budget and tax proposals show he is firmly camped out with his corporate friends. Pat Garofalo at Think Progress points out:

Snyder has proposed ending his state’s Earned Income Tax Credit, cutting a $600 per child tax credit, and reducing credits for seniors, while also cutting funding for school districts by eight to ten percent. At the same time, as the Michigan League for Human Services found, the state’s business taxes would be reduced by nearly $2 billion, or 86 percent.


  • So-called right to work bills have been introduced in more than a dozen states, including Indiana (temporarily off the table), Maine, Michigan and Pennsylvania with Republican legislatures and governors.
  • Paycheck deception bills that would silence workers’ voices in the election process have been or soon will be introduced in nearly two dozen states, including 15 where Republicans control the legislature and hold the governor’s office, including Florida where the bill was approved by a Senate committee this morning.
  • Prevailing wage laws protect communities and workers from unscrupulous contractors low-balling bids on taxpayer-funded construction projects by setting wage rates to the local or prevailing standard. Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R), with the support of construction industry CEOs, vows to eliminate Ohio’s prevailing wage law, and legislation has been or will soon be introduced in 19 states, including  nine with dual Republican control.
  • In 22 states—12 with Republican governors and legislatures—moves are under way to eliminate Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) that would hurt communities, workers and small businesses by lowering wages.
  • Public school teachers and employees are fighting back against assaults in more than a dozen states, including some so-called “education reform” proposals that are thinly veiled attacks on teachers’ rights and privatization schemes.
  • Bills attacking immigrant workers’ rights and immigrant children’s education, including many patterned after Arizona’s anti-immigrant law passed last year, have been or will soon be introduced in some 30 states, half of which are Republican controlled.

This blog originally appeared in blog.aflcio.org on March 14, 2011. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journal and managing editor of the Seafarers Log. He came to the AFL- CIO in 1989 and has written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety. When his collar was still blue, he carried union cards from the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers, American Flint Glass Workers and Teamsters for jobs in a chemical plant, a mining equipment manufacturing plant and a warehouse. He has also worked as roadie for a small-time country-rock band, sold his blood plasma and played an occasional game of poker to help pay the rent. You may have seen him at one of several hundred Grateful Dead shows. He was the one with longhair and the tie-dye. Still has the shirts, lost the hair.

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One Response to “Attack on Middle-Class Jobs, Workers Is Nationwide”

  1. Charles J Read Says:


    Public Employee Unions: Where the union members vote for who is going to sit on the other side of the bargaining table. How insane is that.

    Financial Martial Law: If you think that is bad check out the alternative a Federal Bankruptcy Judge and what they can do (hint – anything they want) with no election restraints at all.

    Right to Work: This is a free country and if I don’t want to pay a bunch of overpaid underworked thugs to destroy the company I work for I should not have to.

    Paycheck Deception: That one is so misleading in might as well be the name of a congressional bill. There is no deception should no theft by the Union.

    Public School Teachers: I have taught school. They are getting well paid for working half time. If they want a professional salary they need to put in the time that professionals put in.

    Immigration Worker Rights: They have none. They are all felons. They need to be rooted out and deported. Not recruited to join the Union pay their dues and shut up.

    Prevailing Wage: This is a gimme to Unions for votes. Why should the government be required to pay the exact same workers more money to do the same work as a private company pays. This is a disgrace and a way for the Unions to further defraud the taxpayers to line the Unions’ pockets.

    Finally CEO’s: Most CEO’s are hard working people that own their own business. They are the first in and the last to leave. If money is short it is their paycheck that stays in the drawer. They have invested their life savings in the business. They have families to feed and cloth as well. They have created jobs and support other people and their families. They don’t own republicans politicians the way the Unions own democrat politicians. They can’t bring the money and people to bear like a Union can. If the republicans are puppets then vote them out.

    With Union membership declining everywhere except government and the push to get rid of public sector unions’ maybe we can move past a movement (trade unionism) whose time is past and whose existence is an anachronism in the modern age.


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