Monday, June 27, 2011

Right to Work? Right.

When I was fired as the Sheriff's secretary after 10 years, the new sheriff told me that no one could ever fault me for my work ethic. He said I was a superior employee. But.....he wanted the person in my chair to owe their job to him. He wasn't sure he could count on my total support in the next election. He considered that insubordination and grounds for my termination.

I consulted an attorney who specialized in labor law. He told me that as long as my boss hadn't violated EEOC regulations, he could fire me at will. He could fire me if I wore yellow socks to work and he hated yellow socks. He said that was because Indiana was a "Right to Work" state.

Twenty-one states are Right to Work states. As so often happens with politics, the designation "right to work" means almost exactly the opposite of what it implies. What it actually does is protect industry from unions.  According to right to work laws, employers cannot punish workers for either choosing to join a union or refusing to join a union. Trust me, these laws didn't come into effect because employer anger at employees not wanting to join unions was rampant.

And naturally, business knows how to work these laws to their benefit. When we moved to Texas, the first question my husband (a tool and die maker) was asked when applying for a position was: "how do you feel about unions?" and you'd damn well better say you were opposed to them or you could kiss the possibility of getting hired good-bye. Employers didn't need to worry about punishing employees for wanting to join a union since being anti-union was a virtual condition of employment.

In April, the National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint against the Boeing Company for moving part of their operation from Seattle, Washington to Charleston, S.C., investing $2 billion dollars and creating 1,000 jobs in that state.

A big part of the reason Boeing finds South Carolina so attractive is, of course, is its business-friendly, Right to Work climate. No nasty old strikes to interrupt the production process as so often happens in Washington.

Oh, man, this is hard for me because I think Right To Work is a farce perpetrated on state workers by their governments to suck up to business. No employee should be able to be fired for wearing yellow socks.

But, having said that, this is over-reaching on the part of the Obama administration. Industries require overseeing by the government to ensure safe and fair working conditions for their employees but dictating where they can locate their operations is going a big step too far.  The NLRB should back off on this one.