Lisa Idell-Sassi’s recent commentary in the ADN extolling Gov. Dunleavy’s move to allow state employees to not pay union dues demands a response. His action is really just a ploy to weaken the state employee’s union.
First, let me be clear: I have never met Ms. Idell-Sassil, and she certainly has the right to express her opinions. None of my comments are aimed at her personally, only the positions put forth in her commentary.
As I approach my 89th birthday, I no longer have a dog in this fight. I am a retired state employee, and my retirement benefits were achieved by strong union efforts. Anyone who thinks my retirement was in any way the result of goodwill or benevolence on the part of the state needs to check their head for soft spots.
Gov. Dunleavy’s obvious goal is to make Alaska into a “right to work” state by weakening unions. In “right to work” states, workers have the right to not pay union dues. They also have the right to work for lower wages, fewer benefits and the reduction or total elimination of retirement benefits.
In the late 1950s, industry went on a nationwide crusade to crush unions. Their actions included extensive funding and lobbying for anti-union legislation. Many companies also used intimidation, coercion, and the illegal firing of employees active in unions. National Labor Relations Board data shows 10,000 workers were illegally fired in 1980 alone. In 1960, 32% of workers were unionized. By 2016, that percentage fell to only 6.4%. Management was certainly successful in union-busting actions.
Unions certainly are not without fault. Some of the huge national unions were guilty of actions that were clearly excessive. Workers in some of these huge unions had little say about union goals or actions. But while they weren’t perfect, they were better for the workers than no representation.
I recently read that middle-class incomes, adjusted for inflation, are exactly where they were 25 years ago. Guess whose incomes have risen? The wealthy upper class! A major reason has been the weakening and/or elimination of union representation for workers. When I was working, on several occasions I met workers who did not want to pay their union dues because (they said) they disagreed with what the union was doing. When I asked for specific examples of what they disagreed with, these workers were almost always stuck for an answer. The sad truth is that the majority of workers who won’t pay union dues are simply too cheap! These folks like negotiated salary increases but prefer a free ride on the shoulders of active union members.
— R. Russ Redick
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