Letters to the Editor

Letter: No constitutional convention

A constitutional convention would threaten many things I value about living in Alaska: the right to privacy, public services and access to public lands. The entire constitution would be on the table for a rewrite, essentially opening a Pandora’s box of unintended consequences that would damage our great state.

One of the most alarming things that could come out of this Pandora’s box is the existential threat to my union. A constitutional convention would open the possibility for Alaska to become a “right to work” state. “Right to work” is the name for a policy designed to take away rights from working people. For myself and many Alaskans, our union is the guarantor of our fundamental freedom to a voice on the job through collective bargaining.

The real purpose of “right to work” laws is to tilt the balance of power further away from working families. These laws make it harder for working people to form unions and collectively bargain for better wages, benefits and working conditions.

The fact remains that a union job is one of the best pathways into the American middle class. I was fortunate to grow up in a solidly middle-class household thanks to both of my parents holding union jobs. My story is hardly unique, given the important role unions have played in our state. I want those same opportunities for the next generation of Alaskans.

If Alaska were to become a “right to work” state, it would have harmful consequences for Alaska workers — both those who are in unions and those who are not. So-called “right to work” laws do nothing to boost employment, raise wages, or help working people. States that have passed these anti-union laws have lower wages and benefits for all workers. As we recover from a tough couple of years for our economy, we should protect and empower workers, not threaten their paychecks and freedoms on the job. 

The Economic Policy Institute has found that unionized and non-unionized workers in “right to work” states are paid 3.1% less, on average, than workers with similar characteristics in non- “right to work” states.We are lucky to live in a state where the vast majority of elected officials understand the importance of unions. As a result, “right to work” legislation has not been brought up in Juneau in more than a decade. Public opinion surveys show that more than 60% of Alaskans approve of unions. The number of petitions filed at the National Labor Relations Board by workers to exercise our freedom to stand together in unions and negotiate for a fair return on our work was up 69% compared to last year.A constitutional convention presents many dangerous unknowns, but I am especially hypervigilant about the possibility of outside corporate interests pushing “right to work” laws on unwilling Alaskans. This November, join me in voting no on Ballot Measure 1.

— Alex Baker

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Vice-president, UFCW Local 1496

Anchorage

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