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Labor Union Majority Signup Approved in OR & NH -- And States Demand the US Senate Follows Suit

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Labor Union Majority Signup Approved in OR & NH -- And States Demand the US Senate Follows Suit

Rewarding Work

by Nathan Newman

Labor Union Majority Signup Approved in OR & NH -- And States Demand the US Senate Follows Suit

This week, the Oregon Senate voted to strengthen the freedom of state public employees to form unions, joining the Oregon House in approving a bill, HB 2891, to simplify the organizing proces by having the state government recognize a union for any set of workers where a majority of them have signed cards to ask for a union.

Such "majority signup" rules prevent delaying tactics and potential harassment by supervisors, making "majority signup" critical to protecting labor rights. As Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney says:

The right to organize played a critical role in building our middle class. If a majority of employees want to form a union, Oregon will respect that choice. It’s just common sense.

Oregon joins the New Hampshire legislature, which approved a similar law earlier this month, and joins states like New York, California, Illinois and New Mexico which already support majority signup procedures for some or all of their public employees.

These majority signup rules are similar to those included in the proposed federal Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which would extend that protection to private sector employees. Private sector workers face even more intense anti-union harassment. With over 20,000 American workers illegally fired or disciplined each year for demanding their rights at work, many state legislatures have been demanding that the federal government allow the majority signup among private employers, just as many states allow it for their government workers.

How Federal Labor Law Forces States to Hire Unionbusters: States have another direct reason to support changes in federal law. Almost unbelievably, federal law requires states to hand out government contracts and economic development money to union-busting firms, no matter how many times those firms have illegally violated the rights of their employees. Since a company caught illegally firing an employee is only required under federal to restore lost pay to the worker, with few additional penalties for lawbreaking companies, such serial labor violations are all too common.

Decades ago, states had passed laws reserving government contracts for law-abiding firms, but a 1986 Supreme Court decision called Wisconsin Dept. of Industry v. Gould struck down a 1979 Wisconsin law which had denied state funds to companies breaking federal labor law three times within a five year period. The Supreme Court declared that however weak the punishment for illegal behavior was under federal labor law, those punishments were the maximum allowed and states could not screen out such companies from government contracts. Companies can therefore cut their costs by illegally violating their employees' rights and get an unfair advantage in bidding against law-abiding firms-- and states have to look the other way and hand over government funds to such union-busting firms.

Taking Action: The Employee Free Choice Act, by both streamlining union recognition and putting real teeth in labor law enforcement with additional penalties for illegal actions, is therefore the only way for states to gain assurance that businesses violating labor laws won't get a free ride in bidding for public contracts. The U.S. House of Representatives has already voted to support EFCA and the Senate will be voting on the bill next week. The workers' rights organization American Rights At Work has established a site where you can let your United States Senator know how important it is to protect the freedom to form unions.



More Resources

Valuing Families

by Adam Thompson

States Make Single-Payer the Standard for Reform

The California legislature is again on the verge of passing universal single-payer health care. SB 840, the California Universal Healthcare Act, sponsored by State Senator Sheila Kuehl, was recently approved by the State Senate and is now before the Assembly, where it too is expected to pass. The legislation, which is often compared to a Medicare-for-all system, would provide comprehensive and seamless health care for all residents. Everyone - individuals, employers and government - would share responsibility for funding the program. Importantly, consumers would have complete freedom to choose their providers who would be paid according to actuarially-sound reimbursement.

As part of the campaign to support the bill, filmmaker Michael Moore premiered his new health care film "SiCKO" at a rally organized by the California Nurses Association in the state capitol of Sacramento. Can Moore do for health care what Al Gore has done for global warming? He's certainly trying to by taking on the uncoordinated, costly, and profit-minded private health care system in his new film.

Cost Savings from Single Payer: Because the California bill lacks a direct funding mechanism, its approval is largely symbolic. However, it reinforces single-payer as the standard against which all health care reform should be measured. Numerous studies and the experience of counties like Canada (see graphic) show that single-payer health care could achieve cost savings and quality standards, let alone health care for all, that our current uncoordinated health care system shows no sign of approaching. According to a financial analysis by the Lewin Group, the California plan, if enacted, would spend $68.9 billion less than the current system by 2015 and achieve $343.6 billion in savings over a 10-year period. Savings would include $20 billion from a mandate that 95% of health care dollars be spent on medical care versus administrative overhead and $5.2 billion in the first year achieved by bulk-purchasing of prescription drugs and medical equipment.

Even though single-payer lacks enough political support to enact it at the state or national level, states, including California and New Mexico, are elevating it as the standard for cost, quality and access.

For instance, the California bill is similar to legislation passed in 2006 that was promptly vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger and will be again, but both legislative chambers have passed comprehensive reforms that are now moving into negotiations with Governor Schwarzenegger. SB 840 sets the standard for those negotiations.

New Mexico: The Health Care for New Mexicans Committee, formed by the governor and legislative leaders, has commissioned Mathematica Policy Research to study the state's health care system and evaluate three different approaches to reform: a single-payer system, a voucher approach, and an individual mandate. Since Mathematica has highlighted the cost savings from a single payer approach in analysis of other states, including single-payer as one of three models for study in New Mexico elevates it as a key standard for reform and potentially as a viable option for consideration.

Other states are looking seriously at single payer plans as the gold standard for the cost savings that can be achieved through comprehensive reforms, even if many aren't likely to enact them because of political constraints. If a state won't enact single payer, many advocates are demanding that any alternative proposal at least achieve the same coverage and cost savings.

More Resources

Research Roundup

Research Roundup

Countering the myth that American public opinion is conservative, the Campaign for America's Future and Media Matters have released The Progressive Majority, a major review of public polling research that demonstrates that Americans actually show robust support for progressive policies, from increasing spending on public services to strengthening unions to increasing taxes on the wealthy to opposing restrictions on abortion rights. The report supplies ammunition for anyone needing to counter the false conventional wisdom that the American people don't hold progressive values.

In Aiming Higher, the Commonwealth Fund ranks the states according to 32 measures of health care cost, quality and access. States vary tremendously on all measures. For example, if quality across the country matched the best states, there would be 90,000 fewer deaths for those under age 75, while if insurance coverage nationwide matched the best states, the uninsured population would be cut in half. Hawaii, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, and North Dakota emerged as the top states on a range of different indicators in the study.

In The Work-Family Balance, the Economic Policy Institute compares European, Japanese and U.S. work practices and finds that work hours in other countries, unlike in the United States, have declined and public policy has supported a range of policies from paid family leave to child care support in order to promote greater job flexibility by their citizens. If the United States is going to achieve a healthier work-family balance, the report outlines solutions such as strengthened collective bargaining rights, tighter overtime rules, statutory vacation rules, benefit parity rights for part-time workers, and the right to flexible work arrangements.

States often hand out big bucks in subsidies seeking to attract the headquarters of global businesses, but a new study by Good Jobs First and New Jersey Policy Perspectives, Pay, Or We (Might) Go, analyzes Citigroup's practices and finds that it, like many global companies, games the system to collect subsidies with every move, highlighting lost revenue for the states and why betting tax dollars on attracting such businesses is a losing economic development policy.

In a broad review of the literature, the Urban Institute's Assessing Federalism explores how the federal-state relationship has changed in administering social policies like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Food Stamps, Medicaid, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), and child welfare. The result of these changes has been a widening between states of standards for, and financing of, these programs and a growing complexity in administering the programs nationally.

When Oregon voters approved Measure 37, which radically limited land regulation in that state, the policy was sold to the public as helping property owners harmed by such regulation. In fact, a new study, Property Values and Measure 37, finds that land regulation does not decrease the value of property compared to areas where land regulation is weaker; if anything, stronger regulation has increased the value of property for landowners.

Highlighting continued gender discrimination in health care, a new RAND study found that women with heart disease and diabetes are less likely to receive several types of outpatient medical care routinely offered to men with similar health problems.

In Mapping the Growth of Older America, the Brookings Institution finds that many booming Sun Belt areas will be seeing rapidly aging populations-- and many slower-growing suburban areas around metropolitan centers will be facing new stresses on health, transportation and social-support systems.

Please email us leads on good research at research@progressivestates.org

Resources

Labor Union Majority Signup Approved in OR & NH -- And States Demand the US Senate Follows Suit

Oregon, HB 2891 to allow for majority sign-up of public employees

AFL-CIO, Expanding Workers' Collective Bargaining Rights: Majority Sign-up/Card Check for Public Sector Workers

AFL-CIO, Employee Free Choice Act

American Rights at Work, Employee Free Choice Act

Supreme Court, Wisconsin Dept. of Industry v. Gould (1986)

States Make Single-Payer the Standard for Reform

Progressive States Network - Cost Savings from an Integrated Health Care System

The Lewin Group - Health Care Reform Analyses and Modeling

Mathematica Policy Research - Feasibility of a Single-Payer Health Plan Model for the State of Maine

Health Action New Mexico

California Nurses Association

Health Care for All-California

Health Access California

Physicians for a National Health Plan - www.SiCKOCure.org

Real bureaucracy (cartoon)

Eye on the Right

The recent Supreme Court decision upholding the "partial birth" abortion ban had unexpected, and enlightening, fallout among the right-wing. After the ruling, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson declared victory. But Colorado Right to Life was none too happy, saying Dobson misrepresented the ruling. They then took out a full page ad in the Colorado Springs Gazette saying the decision will encourage doctors to find "less shocking" abortion procedures and asking Dobson to "repent." Now Colorado Right to Life has been kicked out of the national Right to Life organization. Aside from showing how divided some camps in the right-wing are, the episode is a telling example of how the right-wing base thinks they are being manipulated by national leaders for partisan purposes.

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The Stateside Dispatch is written and edited by:

Nathan Newman, Policy Director
Mijin Cha, Policy Specialist
Adam Thompson, Policy Specialist
John Bacino, Communications Associate

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