Date: Mon, 16 Feb 98 22:49:47 CST
From: Harry Kelber <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: LaborTalk: GOP Prescribes Poison Pill for Workers
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
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
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
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.