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AFL-CIO Fights Back Against Right-To-Work Amendment

Chip Brownlee

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By Chip Brownlee
The Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—Like most conservative-leaning states in the country, Alabama has been a right-to-work State for decades. This year, conservatives are trying to hammer that nail even deeper into the coffin with a constitutional amendment on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Right-to-work passed in the Yellowhammer State back in 1953 and has been in effect ever since. Across the nation, 26 states have right-to-work laws on the books, and many even have constitutional amendments guaranteeing the “right to work.”

Amendment 8 on the November ballot will give Alabama voters the opportunity to solidify right-to-work by placing it in the State constitution. And if there was ever the desire to reverse the decision, another amendment would need to be passed.

But the AFL-CIO isn’t having it. The amendment, President Bren Riley said, is pointless. It would not change the law or right-to-work and would only make it harder for right-to-work to be reversed in the future.

“On the ballot is proposed Amendment 8, a so-called right-to-work amendment that does absolutely nothing that has not already been the law in Alabama since 1953,” Riley said. “It’s been a right-to-work State longer than I’ve been alive. We have to work hard in Alabama in unions to keep our membership up.”

Right-to-work prohibits businesses from establishing agreements with labor unions that require employees to join a union upon their hiring or pay dues even if they choose not to become a member of the union.

Proponents of right-to-work argue the laws send a positive message to businesses wishing to relocate to the state, ultimately providing more jobs and better wages without forcing anyone to join a union. Overall, they said, it helps the economy.

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Detractors of right-to-work laws argue that the measures make it harder to maintain union membership by allowing nonunion members to benefit from union collective bargaining agreements without paying dues or becoming members. Ultimately, the decline in unions hurt wages and benefits, Riley said.

And even if the worker isn’t a member, the union has an obligation to represent the worker under US duty of fair representation laws.

“Right-to-work is a statutory law now, if they’re successful in getting it into the constitution, it changes nothing,” Riley said. “I’ve still got a right to organize folks, you’ve still got a right to come work at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company and choose not to sign a union card. Then, if you get in trouble, I’ve got to go, by God, by law and represent you. We think it’s unfair.”

Riley said he even agrees with the NRA on membership and dues.

“The NRA even believes that to get the rights and benefits of their organization, you have to pay dues,” Riley said. “I guarantee you that Billy Canary and some of these guys that go play golf on Sunday after they go worship, they can’t go play golf unless they’ve got their dues paid. It’s okay for everybody to pay dues except for those sorry union guys.”

The AFL-CIO has more than 60,000 members in Alabama alone. There are more than 190,000 union members in Alabama that work under collective bargaining agreements, more per capita than any other Southern state, and more than 204,000 workers are represented by unions and benefit from union agreements without paying dues, according to the US Department of Labor.

“The sad thing about it is,” Riley said. “How much do you think they’re going to pay you if they’re ever successful in getting rid of us? They pay them cats the wages and benefits they get to keep people like me out of there. If they ever get rid of the union, we’ll all be out of luck. We think everyone should be high-payed.”

The AFL-CIO has organizing campaigns going at Mercedes in Tuscaloosa, Honda in Lincoln, Hyundai in Montgomery and Airbus in Mobile.

“Right to work does not protect the employers like Honda and Hyundai from being organized,” he said. “We still, under the National Labor Relations Act, have a right to organize. We’ve got active campaigns going. When the employers screw the employees enough, they’ll come calling.”

 

Riley said he urges Alabamians to vote no on Amendment 8.

“Organized labor has always been the villain,” Riley said. “The Chamber of Commerce hates us. The Business Council of Alabama hates us. But you know what, we’re the No. 1 contributor to the United Way. Our members are choir directors at church. Our members pastor churches.”


 

The full ballot measure:

“Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, to declare that it is the public policy of Alabama that the right of persons to work may not be denied or abridged on account of membership or nonmembership in a labor union or labor organization; to prohibit an agreement to deny the right to work, or place conditions on prospective employment, on account of membership or nonmembership in a labor union or labor organization; to prohibit an employer from requiring its employees to abstain from union membership as a condition of employment; and to provide that an employer may not require a person, as a condition of employment or continuation of employment, to pay dues, fees, or other charges of any kind to any labor union or labor organization,” the ballot measure reads.

  • A “yes” vote would add the right-to-work language to the constitution. There would be no changes in the effects of right-to-work laws, but it would be harder to reverse the language in the future.
  • A “no” vote would leave the constitution and the law unchanged. The State would still be a right-to-work state, but it would not be added to the constitution.

 

Chip Brownlee is a political reporter, online content manager and webmaster at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or reach him via Twitter.

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Opinion | What happened in Huntsville Wednesday night was disgraceful

Josh Moon

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Law enforcement officers in Huntsville assaulted dozens of people Wednesday night following a peaceful protest and march. 

This is the accurate description of what took place in Huntsville. 

I don’t care what you heard on “the news” or what you read on Facebook or Twitter. That’s what happened. 

Following a peaceful protest downtown — for which the NAACP obtained a permit, because it planned to block traffic — dozens of protesters, gathered to speak out about police brutality of black citizens in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, began to march around the downtown area. 

This is their right. It is guaranteed by the U.S. constitution. 

Contrary to popular belief, and according to legal guidance posted by the American Civil Liberties Union, you do NOT need a permit to peacefully assemble. In fact, it is against the law for anyone — or any law enforcement agency — to prevent you from peacefully assembling in response to a breaking news event.  

And yet, that’s exactly what happened in Huntsville. 

Huntsville Police, the Madison County Sheriff’s Department and — for some reason that no one could immediately explain — the Alabama State Troopers began firing tear gas and rubber bullets at people who were peacefully marching. 

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In attempting to explain why such actions occurred, Lt. Michael Johnson of HPD essentially admitted that officers acted improperly. 

He told TV station WHNT-19 that officers attempted to clear the area by telling the lawfully gathered crowd to disperse. When the crowd instead decided to exercise its right to assemble, Johnson said, officers began using force, including firing the rubber bullets at innocent men, women and children and spraying the crowd with pepper spray and tear gas. 

(Just a quick little FYI: Tear gas has been deemed a chemical agent and the Geneva Convention specifically bans its use in war. But it’s still legal for police departments to toss into peaceful crowds.)

Johnson said officers used force because they weren’t “going to roll the dice” and take a chance that the crowd could become hostile. 

Which — and while I’m no attorney, I feel comfortable going out on this limb — is not how the law works. You can’t impose force because you believe someone might break the law. Particularly when there is no evidence of that. 

And how do we know there is no evidence of it? 

Because Johnson just kept on talking during that interview, an interview led by WHNT’s Jerry Hayes, who was — and I’ll put this kindly — very police-friendly. As Hayes praised the police response and told everyone that the cops really had no choice but to clear the area by gassing children, Johnson explained just how well it had all gone. 

No officers were injured, Johnson said. No property was damaged, he said. They even had single-digit arrests/detainments, he said. 

So, again, law enforcement fired rubber bullets at peacefully assembled men, women and children who didn’t damage property, didn’t assault police officers and had every right to march on and alongside a public street. 

It’s not hard to understand why people are marching against police abuse. 

Democratic state Rep. Anthony Daniels, who represents the Huntsville area and who spoke earlier in the evening at the NAACP-organized event, compared the actions and the optics of the police attacking citizens to “Bloody Sunday” in Selma. On that day in 1965, Alabama State Troopers attacked a group of peaceful marchers because the marchers refused to disperse, and instead continued their march out of Selma towards Montgomery.

“I want someone to explain to me what the state troopers were doing at a peaceful event,” Daniels said. “What happened was a disgrace. That was a peaceful protest. Those people were following the laws and were not out of line.”

The same cannot be said for the officers. 

There are a number of videos of cops from various agencies firing tear gas canisters at people who are posing no threat, and in most cases are backing away from the officers, and randomly spraying down groups of people with pepper spray for no discernable reason. In one video that was viewed several hundred thousand times by late Wednesday evening, an HPD officer exits his patrol car, pepper spray in hand, and just starts strolling along, periodically dousing terrified people with the spray. 

It was disgraceful. It was ignorant. It was, most of all, simply wrong. 

There has been a lot of condemnation over the last few days of violent protests and criminal acts. And rightfully so. While many people understand and can empathize with the anger that lies beneath these protests, the majority doesn’t want to watch cities burn. 

I hope the same people who condemned those acts will also speak out against the violence committed by law enforcement in Huntsville on Wednesday.

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Crime

Marshall says Moody officer’s death was not related to unrest

Brandon Moseley

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Wednesday, Alabama Attorney General Steven Marshall (R) issued a statement on the line-of-duty death of Moody Police Officer Stephen Williams late Tuesday night.

“I was devastated to receive the phone call late last night that another one of our law enforcement heroes had lost his life,” AG Marshall said. “I have been slow to make a public statement today because, after a record-breaking year of law enforcement deaths in our state, words just seem so inadequate.”

“Sergeant Williams was responding to a call for help at local hotel,” Marshall said. “He showed up, ready to assist, and was instantly shot dead. At this point, we have no reason to believe that Sergeant Williams’s shooting is related to the unrest we’re witnessing across the nation. Nevertheless, our state has been plagued in recent months by a lack of respect for law enforcement—most of whom are genuinely good men and women, from all backgrounds, doing an incredibly difficult job.”

“Whether black or white, law enforcement or civilian, we are all Alabamians,” Marshall concluded. “None of us benefit from lawlessness. As I shared with Moody Police Chief Hunt last night, my prayers and deepest sympathies are with the department and Sergeant Williams’s family. My Office stands ready to assist in any way that we can.”

There are two suspects in custody, a man and a woman. As of press time their identities had not been released. A suspect is expected to be charged with capital murder today, their identity will be released then.

“The investigation into the death of Sgt. Stephen Williams of the Moody Police Department is ongoing. The St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office, JSU Center for Applied Forensics, and ALEA, along with numerous supporting agencies are currently conducting an extensive investigation,” said St. Clair County Sheriff Billy Murray (R). “I would like to thank all of the assisting agencies who are too numerous to name who responded without hesitation to an Officer in need. I also would like to thank the citizens of Moody and all of St. Clair County for their outpouring of support for all Law Enforcement.”

Sources report that there was contraband found at the crime scene. Sergeant Stephen Williams and a police trainee were called to the scene by dispatch to the Super 8 Motel in Moody. They faced a barrage of gunfire almost immediately upon arriving at the scene. Multiple weapons have been recovered. Williams was later pronounced dead at UAB Hospital. An hours long standoff at the motel followed. Investigators were on the scene all day on Tuesday collecting evidence.

Stephen Williams served with the Moody Police Department for three years. During that time he was made a sergeant and led the Department’s night shift. Moody police chief Thomas Hunt said that Stephens won officer of the year. Stephens has 23 years in law enforcement experience with Moody, Bessemer, Alabaster, and Calera. He leaves behind a wife and three children.

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The Moody Chamber of Commerce announced that a Memorial fund has been set up for Sgt Stephen Williams at Metro Bank. You may make a donation at any Metro location.

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Chris Elliott selected for national 2020 Emerging Legislative Leaders Program

Brandon Moseley

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State Senator Chris Elliott (R – Daphne) was recently selected as a member of the 2020 Emerging Legislative Leaders Program.

The Emerging Legislative Leadership Program is a national group sponsored by the State Legislative Leaders Foundation (SLLF) and the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.

“I am humbled and honored to have been nominated by Senate Leadership and selected by SLLF to represent Alabama in this prestigious program,” Elliott said.

Chris Elliott is serving in his first term in the Alabama Senate. He is a native of the Alabama Gulf coast. He is a graduate from St. Paul’s Episcopal School in Mobile. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Richmond in Virginia where he studied political science and urban policy.

Elliott worked for the Commonwealth of Virginia in emergency management field and for Virginia Power in nuclear security and emergency preparedness. He returned home to Baldwin County where he is now a small business owner. Sen. Elliott is the Vice-Chairman of the Senate Government Affairs Committee. Elliott formerly served as the Chairman of the Baldwin County Commission and the Chairman of the Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization. Elliott formerly served on the Board of Directors of Baldwin County United Way.

Elliott has worked with numerous statewide and local political campaigns in both Virginia and Alabama. He is a former member of the both the Baldwin County Republican Party Executive Committee and steering committee. He is a member and past Chairman of the Baldwin County Young Republicans.

Senator Elliott and his family are members of St. James Episcopal Church of Fairhope where he served as an usher and served on the Church’s Vestry. Senator Elliott is an avid sailor, white water rafter and upland bird hunter.

The Emerging Legislative Leaders Program is a program for upcoming leaders in state legislatures from across the country. Up to 50 of the best and brightest state legislators come together to take part in a multi-day series of discussions and sessions led by professors at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.

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Over 600 legislators have taken part in the program since its start in 2005, with many past members achieving leadership positions within their respective states.

“This leadership program provides an opportunity for collaboration with colleagues from across the country to share ideas and best practices to address complex public policy issues,” Elliott said.

The SLLF is a non-partisan, non-profit independent organization established in 1972 that represents all legislative leadership across the country and seeks to educate and inspire the nation’s current and future state legislative leaders to excellence.

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Congress

Byrne opposes Trump plan to use U.S. military to stop unrest

Brandon Moseley

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President Donald Trump said he would deploy active-duty American armed forces to stop unrest in major American cities if governors fail to use the National Guard.

On Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper announced that he opposed the president’s plan. Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-Montrose, has been a staunch Trump supporter in the House of Representatives, but he also said that he opposed the president on this.

“I agree with Secretary Esper,” Byrne said on Twitter. “At this time there is absolutely no reason to use the Insurrection Act to deploy active duty U.S. forces. This is an option that should only be used as a last resort.”

“I’ve always believed and continue to believe that the National Guard is best suited for performing domestic support for civil authorities in these situations in support of local law enforcement,” Esper said at a news conference on Wednesday. “I say that not only as Secretary of Defense, but also as a former soldier and a former member of the National Guard. The option to use active-duty U.S. armed forces in a law enforcement rule should be used only as a last resort and then only in the most urgent and dire of situation. We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act.”

This is directly counter to the policy stated by Trump on Monday.

“Innocent people of have been savagely beaten, like the young man in Dallas, Texas, who was left dying on the street. Or the woman in upstate New York, viciously attacked by dangerous thugs,” Trump said. “Small business owners have seen their dreams utterly destroyed. New York’s Finest have been hit in the face with bricks. Brave nurses, who have battled the virus, are afraid to leave their homes. A police precinct station has been overrun. Here in the nation’s capital, the Lincoln Memorial and the World War Two Memorial have been vandalized. One of our most historic churches was set ablaze. A federal officer in California, an African-American enforcement hero, was shot and killed.”

“These are not acts of peaceful protest. These are acts of domestic terror,” Trump stated. “Violence against any American will never be tolerated. Tonight, President Trump announced executive actions to stop the rioting and restore safety to our cities.

Trump recommended every governor deploy the National Guard and establish an overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled. If a city or state refuses to take action, then the U.S. Military will be deployed.

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The president also announced decisive action to protect Washington, D.C., and our cherished national monuments. “As we speak, I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers to stop the rioting, looting, vandalism, assaults, and the wanton destruction of property.”

At this time, we do not know if the president’s policy will actually be carried out or not as the Trump Administration official tasked with carrying out the policy, Mark Esper has, announced his public opposition to the plan.

There were riots in Birmingham on Sunday. A number of people, including reporters, were assaulted dozens of businesses were burglarized and looted and much of Birmingham’s downtown was vandalized. Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin has declared a state of emergency and instituted a citywide curfew between 7:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.

That has since been extended to all of Jefferson County and is in place through June 9. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey has activated one thousand Alabama National Guard troops to be deployed if requested.

Congressman Bradley Byrne is not running for another term representing Alabama’s First Congressional District.

(Original reporting by the Hill contributed to this report.)

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