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Archive for the ‘Civil Liberties’ Category

Rebecca Friedrichs. (Photo by Christi Ransom)

photo Christi Ransom, Washington Post

The National Right to Work Committee has been very active in the national movement to bring Paycheck Protection to American workers. One case the entire nation is following is Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case which could essentially place Right to Work/Paycheck Protection as protected by the U.S. Constitution for every state everywhere, including states like Delaware which currently do not guarantee a worker’s right to not pay union dues and not receive union benefits.

The video below is from YouTube and discusses the case, as well as the implications depending on how the Court could rule.

here’s the link to their blogpost in full in full:

http://www.nrtw.org/en/blog/right-work-friedrichs-01122016

Which way will the court rule? What would happen if all of Paycheck Protection became national law?

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employeefreedom.org

August 16-22 is National Employee Freedom Week, an annual national campaign that informs union members about their workplace rights, specifically their right to decide if they want to be union members. NEFW consists of a record 101 organizations in 42 states. CRI is one of those 101 groups and Delaware is one of those 42 states.

This week brings a lot of hand-wringing from ardent union supporters and leaders, who are concerned about having as many union dues-payers as possible, even to the detriment of their own members. Within minutes of promoting #EmployeeFreedom on Twitter, we were bombarded with attacks such as:

  • “what a moronic statement they do decide if they want to unionize! They vote YES!”
  • “removes the right to unionize public employees. Get your facts in order before you advocate “.
  • And our favorite, “ = for oligarchy control over women”.

Let’s be clear about why CRI supports Right to Work. We have no interest in denying people who want to unionize the right to do so. We do not dispute the benefits unionization once brought to this country, in making work conditions better for millions of workers who were exploited by unscrupulous corporate bosses. If you want to know what we mean, visit a coal mine when you can and learn about the horrible manner in which employees were treated worse than animals, exploited to death. Their efforts led to changes in government law and nowadays treating employees like cattle is legally impossible, not to mention bad PR.

However, over time, unions became less about making the workplace safer and more about making money, both for workers and for union bosses, at the expense of business owners or the taxpayers. We will not even go into details about the money laundering for political purposes which offends a lot of union members, who don’t want any of their dues money going to political causes, especially ones they do not agree with. Do not be fooled by union talk about not giving money to candidates or causes. They do so, just often via PACs or other loopholes.

Over time, many union rank-and-file became dissatisfied with their union for one reason or another. Some didn’t like the union politics. Others did not feel as though they were receiving adequate benefits for the dues they pay. Some may simply have thought they could negotiate for themselves better and didn’t want to pay someone else to negotiate for them. Some others don’t like some of the union practices, such as unions which insist on promotions by seniority and not by merit, or “paying your dues first”.  Others may have seen the hurting economy around them, and realized that labor unions were becoming part of the problem (for proof, look at the auto industry.)

Meanwhile, private sector union membership is falling. In 1990, Delaware had about 49,000 private sector union members. Today that number is closer to 25,000 and going down. General Motors, Chrysler, DuPont, Georgia Pacific, and Evraz Steel have closed factories and left the state, leaving many blue collar workers without jobs.

Forced unionization is not the only reason businesses have left. A lot of it is due to a declining business climate created as a result of poor decisions made by the Executive and Legislative branches. The threat of union bosses coming to manufacturers and demanding exclusive bargaining rights, however, encourages businesses to just move to a state where no employee can be compelled to join a labor union if they do not want to. Some states have seen a decline in union membership, others have seen an increase due to the total number of jobs available. Those who want to be unionized, vote to do so. Those who do not, keep their money and eschew their benefits.

Rather than do right by their members and provide the rank-and-file with membership benefits that create happy union employees, union bosses instead attack the CRI’s of the world and complain we’re doing the Koch Brothers bidding, or something like that. They choose to go negative instead of going positive. Their actions do nothing to encourage their members to want to stay, which is the number one reason membership is declining. Rather than attack us for standing for employee’s rights, they ought to ask themselves WHY a large percentage of union members want to leave. No one should be surprised that Scott Walker got 38% of the union household votes in his 2012 recall election, according to Edison Research.

We all know there is a problem in this country when it comes to creating new job opportunities, and it’s heartbreaking to see so many decent-paying jobs leave our state. We know that so-called “Right to Work” and “Employee Freedom” laws will not solve our blue-collar jobs decline on their own. They are, however, important checkboxes employers look for before investing in a state.

We want more people to see that the solution to having better-paying jobs is to create an atmosphere which encourages businesses to come here and feel like they are wanted, not despised. We want employees to be able to have a say in who represents them and what benefits they receive. For these reasons, CRI proudly supports National Employee Freedom Week.

Union workers: Learn more about your rights here

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CRI has joined a Freedom of Information Act request for disclosure of sources of grants given to University of Delaware Professor John Byrne for his work on climate change. Those paying attention to these issues will notice that our request merely followed in the footsteps of a request for similar information regarding UD’s Dr. David Legates. We replicated US Representative Raul Grijalva’s language nearly verbatim, hoping to place his move in perspective. As Delaware citizens we proceeded under a transparency law providing for the release of public records; to those who would claim such requests chill academic freedom, we note that it is Rep. Grijalva whose request waves the banner of governmental authority.

Rep. Grijalva is the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee and is targeting only those who have testified, using their research, against claims that global warming is causing harms such as an increase in severe weather events. He states it is important we know who funded the research in case some fossil fuel company supported the funding to influence the results. He has not made similar requests of anyone who testified using research that supports the connection. Apparently, grants from environmental groups, government, and certain foundations are assumed, incorrectly, to be beyond suspicion of influencing research.

Using the power of his office for this sort of one-sided pursuit poses real potential to limit research of controversial topics. For several years we have seen an ongoing campaign aimed at removing inconvenient scientists from the climate change debate. Roger Pielke, Jr. of the University of Colorado, Boulder announced in a blog post responding to Grijalva’s letter, “The incessant attacks and smears are effective, no doubt. I have already shifted all of my academic work away from climate issues.” Pielke’s work, similar to Dr. Legates, shows that damages from hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, and droughts have not increased in frequency or intensity since the middle of the twentieth century despite warmer temperatures. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the leading proponent of government action to decrease carbon emissions, also states global warming has not been proven to impact severe weather events.

We support transparency at publicly funded institutions, and researchers should disclose funding sources when they publish a paper as is the policy at most universities. However, we have seen numerous requests for “skeptic” scientists’ emails (such as Dr. Legates’ at Delaware) draw no university opposition or public challenge, only to hear shrieks of outrage when the roles are reversed. The reach of transparency laws is a topic of legitimate debate, though whether they should be evenly applied should be beyond challenge. The use of government office to join one side and intimidate unwanted challenge, however, is climate McCarthyism. We hope our request will contribute to placing the similarities — and stark differences — between these efforts in perspective.

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Every once in a while we at CRI like to think about economic freedom issues that don’t directly relate to our mission. One such story which showed up in our chilly, soon-to-be-snow-covered inboxes is this one on DelDOT helping the Newark Police patrol the roads near Exit 1 and the Maryland border (route 896, Christiana Parkway, Route 40) where some truckers have been known to exit the highway and then rejoin I-95 about 2 miles away without paying the toll.

Barring the unusual traffic delay this move adds maybe 10 minutes to one’s commute in exchange for saving $4 in tolls. Clearly a large number of truckers believe adding 10 minutes to their commute is worth saving $4 for. So how does the state respond? by hiring more “enhanced” enforcement of toll evasion by heavy trucks and commercial vehicles along Newark-area routes restricted to local deliveries only. The enforcement will be more infrequent but they will reserve power to pull trucks over and check the drivers’ records to make sure they are on local roads on their way to make a local delivery.

Now from a locals’ point of view, trucks block lanes, wear down roads, and slow down normal traffic flow, all so a trucker can save $4 in toll fees. It should not surprise anyone then that keeping trucks who are not making local deliveries off the roads would be popular in the Newark area where this is occurring. From the article:

“During the first two months of patrols in November and December, state troopers and Newark officers conducted 386 total inspections, according to DelDOT.

Police took at least five trucks and nine drivers out of service due to violations in that time, said DelDOT’s Brian Motyl, assistant director of finance. Overall, they issued 179 citations, including weight, equipment, licensing and registration-related issues. Data for January was not yet available.”

That’s a lot of inspections! Over six a day, holidays included. There were nearly three citations issued a day. Each citation carries a fine ranging from $77-$95 and two points on the driver’s license. DelDOT says it’s spent $60,000 through January 31 on the enhanced enforcement; using the $95 fines for every citation issued, the state took in $17,005. That’s a loss of roughly $43,000 going by the math alone, and that’s if every ticket issued was for the maximum amount. On the other side getting heavy trucks off local roads might save money on construction repairs since heavier truck usage requires more repair work done but given New Castle County’s astronomically high Prevailing Wage rates any savings from fewer repairs would be wiped out by the PW and the cost of enforcing this program long-term.

We can safely conclude using this enforcement is costing the state more money than it takes in from citations or from forcing these “toll dodgers” to pay $4 at the toll booth. The article mentions an uptick in tolls collected from commercial traffic but notes tolls collected from larger vehicles has been down for some time. Now the enforcement campaign could pressure truckers to pay $4 rather than risk a $95 fine and points on the license might scare some truckers into staying on the highway, but now we move into the morality: is this way of enforcing laws an aspect of a free society? Having police do random checks for papers to make sure you comply with the local ordinance? Suppose the state lowered the toll to $2. Might that discourage all but the most toll-evading of truckers to just pay $2 rather than dodge the tolls, a move which would save the state tens of thousands of dollars on road repairs and enforcement?

Let’s hear your thoughts: Do you support this enhanced enforcement program? Or should the state try alternative means to discourage truckers from leaving the highways?

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