Here we have another country lecturing the United States about workers’ rights. And actually trying to strengthen them, which is more than we can say about our current president and Congress.
The reality is, Canada is entitled to do precisely that. Our Canadian OPCMIA brothers and sisters live and work in a country with stronger labor laws that protect the right to organize and bargain collectively. As a result, union membership is higher in Canada, our members are able to bargain better contracts, and income inequality is lower.
In the U.S., the opposite is true. Some 28 states have “right to work for less” laws that allow employees in unionized workplaces to “free ride” — to get all of the benefits of union representation while paying none of the costs — because these laws force unions to represent workers who refuse to pay dues.
That’s why “right to work” is nothing more than a cynical device to weaken labor power and bankrupt unions. That’s also why workers in “right to work” states earn an average of $6,109 less than workers in states without these awful laws — and why workplace death rates are 49 percent higher in “right to work” states.
Making matters worse, the U.S. Supreme Court is considering a case, Janus v. AFSCME, that will likely make the entire public sector “right to work.” State, county and municipal employees everywhere in the U.S. will be able to free ride if the court rules as oral arguments indicated they would. While this won’t directly affect OPCMIA members, it will strike a further blow against our movement.
Legislation has even been introduced in Congress to make the entire country “right to work” — a move that would surely be the last straw for the middle class in America.
So if Canada wants to use NAFTA renegotiations to force the U.S. to abandon “right to work” laws, I say more power to them. And if American negotiators want to show that their president actually cares about improving workers’ lives, they should agree to Canada’s proposal. In the process, they might actually create a new NAFTA that raises everyone’s living standards, rather than the current deal, which has been sending everyone on a race to the bottom.
So thank you, Canada. Keep up the fight. And feel free to lecture — and shame — America’s leaders into restoring and strengthening workers’ rights here in the U.S.A.
Daniel E. Stepano