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Sender: owner-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Mon, 16 Feb 98 22:49:47 CST
From: Harry Kelber <hkelber@igc.apc.org>
Subject: LaborTalk: GOP Prescribes Poison Pill for Workers
Article: 27926

Poison Pill for Workers

By Harry Kelber
17 February 1998

A cabal of 111 Republican members of Congress has co-sponsored a bill with the benevolent-sounding title, "Worker Protection Fairness Act" (H.R. 1625), which would prohibit unions from using dues money to "support political, social or charitable causes or many other non- collective bargaining activities" without the written authorizarion from their members, to be renewed annually.

Under this bill, unions would be denied the use of their resources to lobby on any public issue, hold legislative conferences, publish educational material, engage in voter registration, or even contribute to organizations fighting heart disease and cancer without the signature of individual members, revocable with 30 days' notice.

H.R. 1625 has been reported out of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. A similar restrictive bill (S 9) has been introduced in the Senate.

Although corporations outspent unions by an 11 to 1 margin in the 1996 elections, the obvious aim of H.R. 1625 is to put a choke on fund- raising by unions ad enmesh them in a nightmarish tangle of bookkeeping, administrative and legal problems.

The bill does not define labor-management collective bargaining, so that any expenditure by a union can be subject to questioning and legal action. Section 4(c) permits plaintiffs to "collect double any amount deducted in violation." It states that "such a lawsuit may be a class action, and that the plaintiff shall recover attorney and expert witness fees."

The Gingrich-type Republicans are hoping to dupe union members into supporting H.R. 1625 on the grounds that they may get a dues rebate if they surrender their union's ability to defend their economic and political interests.

If H.R. 1625 were to become law, unions would be denied the funds to engage effectively in political activity. With an enfeebled labor movement, the Big Business bloc in Congress would have a free hand to tamper with the overtime provisions of the wage-hour law, wipe out federal prevailing wage regulations, reduce workers' compensation benefits, cut down on workplace safety and health inspections, squeeze Medicare and Medicaid and turn over the Social Security system to the Wall Street crowd. It would set the stage for an enormous windfall for Corporate America amounting to billions of dollars annually--at the expense of worker families.

H.R. 1625 falsely disconnects a union's economic activity from its activity in the political arena. In actual fact, both functions are essential and inter-related, as unions strive to improve the well-being of America's working people. For example, a wage increase won through collective bargaining can be nullified by tax increases at the federal and local level.

Moreover, there are benefits that working families need that can't be won through negotiations with employers, such as decent schools, affordable housing, clean air and water. fair taxes, proper medical care, civil rights and protection against crime.

H.R. 1625 represents the biggest threat the labor movement has faced in decades. Unions must counter-attack by mobilizing their membership to fight this "poison pill" legislation with all available means and make it a major issue in the 1998 congressional elections.

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