Updated: October 9, 2013 7:49PM
In his Aug. 27 column (“Illinois workers deserve say on union membership”), Scott Reeder ignored protections already provided to workers under federal law.
While he uses catch phrases such as “forced union membership,” the fact is that federal law has for decades allowed workers to opt out of union membership and out of the costs of political activities with which they do not agree. The only difference with “right-to work” laws is that they allow workers represented by unions to pay absolutely nothing while forcing the union to provide them equal representation.
Organizations such as Reeder’s Illinois Policy Institute, whose history is rooted in total opposition to organized labor, do not support “right-to-work” laws because they benefit workers. They support them because by legally forcing unions to provide services for free, “right-to-work” laws weaken unions and leave workers’ rights to be attacked and wages to be eroded without strong representation.
“Right-to-work” is not an issue that only affects unions. Its economic results have a negative impact on all workers. The Washington, D.C.-based Economic Policy Institute reports that workers in “right-to-work” states earn an average of $1,500 less annually than in free bargaining states. In “right to work” states, fewer workers have health insurance and employer-sponsored retirement benefits. Does that sound like a good alternative?
Furthermore, the Illinois Policy Institute focuses a great deal of its resources upon legislative initiatives that would weaken unions and reduce workers’ earnings, so to be critical of labor’s efforts to counteract them through political engagement is pure hypocrisy. As long as there are shadow-funded groups such as the Illinois Policy Institute using distorted information to weaken the middle class, you can bet that unions will be there to fight on the side of workers.
James M. Sweeney
International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150
Objects to anti-union letter
I feel compelled to respond to the Aug. 29 letter from Alicia Martin, president of the Illinois chapter of Associated Builders & Contractors, which is a group of greedy contractors pushing for right-to-work legislation.
I noticed in her letter that ABC has changed its rhetoric from right to work (for less) to “merit shop,” as if that would make its con game more palatable to the working man and women. It does not.
Union and nonunion contractors bid on the same jobs. Union contractors pay good wages, provide health care, pensions, etc., by being fair to their employees. ABC contractors pay lower wages with no health care or pensions — leaving their workers to fend for themselves with substandard pay without benefits of any kind in this faltering economy.
I choose to honor union construction workers and contractors because we are the safest, most productive workers to be found anywhere.