By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
You have the right to work in Alabama.
If you land a job at a company or business in this state, there is no set of standards – outside of the list of skills required by the employer – that you must first meet.
You don’t have to pass a test – other than a drug test. And you don’t have to apply for any sort of general work certificate or license to obtain employment.
In short, Alabama is and always has been a “right to work” state.
So, when a state lawmaker writes a guest column in which he encourages Alabama voters to approve an amendment to the State’s constitution that confirms Alabama is a right-to-work state, there is only one appropriate question in response.
What in the hell are you talking about?
In this case, it is fairly easy to determine just what Rep. Arnold Mooney, author of the aforementioned column (which appeared in various state newspapers earlier this week) was trying to pull.
Mooney is trying to con you.
The “right to work” amendment – and the state law it’s based on – is another in a long line of middle fingers the Alabama Legislature has given to working men and women in this state, as those lawmakers cozy up to the deep pockets of wealthy businesses.
Billed as some sort of protection of workers – a tactic Mooney employed in his column – it is, in reality, the opposite.
“Right to work” is a meaningless phrase lawmakers slapped on a set of rules that make it more difficult for unions to organize workforces.
It bars mandatory union membership, no matter how beneficial that union might be, and it prevents mandatory dues, no matter how much a union might benefit an entire workforce. It also places other stipulations on how employees can be represented in disputes and generally makes it harder for unions to ever exist by making them less effective in negotiating better pay and benefits for employees.
And those employees with worse benefits? That’s you.
Want to know how that looks in real life?
In February 2015, I sat in a newspaper conference room listening to attorneys, a company executive and a high-profile PR guy from Lear Corporation – a supplier to Hyundai Motors in Montgomery – try their best to twist its Selma plant’s employees unionizing into a bad thing for the employees.
Those employees were considering unionizing after a number of them claimed they had been sickened by the fumes of chemicals used in the manufacturing of the car seats the company supplied Hyundai.
During that meeting, the plant’s human resources director and attorneys acknowledged that the chemicals being used would make employees sick, that there were other alternatives to the chemicals, that spills have occurred and that independent tests appeared to support the workers’ claims.
They also acknowledged that in all of Lear’s many plants around the country – some of which are unionized – none of the employees at their unionized plants received worse pay or worse benefits than the employees in Selma. Even when cost of living was factored in, the difference in pay for the exact same work was staggering.
And it works that way in every industry.
For years, as I worked through layoff round after layoff round at Gannett, the parent company of the Montgomery Advertiser, I always noticed the layoff announcements were different for the unionized newspapers in the company. The number of layoffs were less and the cuts in salary and benefits not as harsh.
That’s because organized labor has significant bargaining power under federal law. And unionized workforces are entitled to negotiate for wages and benefits that represent a specific percentage of the company’s net profits.
Which is fair. For everyone.
Without that fairness, you know what you get? You get three decades of declining worker wages.
What Mooney and his legislature pals want to do is keep that line moving downward, so they can continue to sell out the Alabama worker to relocating businesses as “cheap labor.”
Don’t let them.
Vote for yourself for a change, and vote no on Amendment 8.