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1/14/2005

Two Republican Governors Rescind Workers’ Contracts, Bargaining Rights

Some 50,000 state workers in Indiana and Missouri saw their rights to negotiate wages, health care and working conditions eliminated when newly elected Republican governors signed executive orders Jan. 11 unilaterally rescinding their bargaining rights and contracts.

The attack on workers’ rights at the state level follows the Bush administration’s four-year assault on federal workers, including the administration’s unilateral take back of the bargaining rights of hundreds of thousands of employees. Recent decisions by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)—now controlled by President George W. Bush’s appointees—also have begun to erode the legal guarantees of private-sector workers to form unions.

These actions “echo a message coming from the White House down to men and women on the front lines of our struggles against poverty, disease, crime and terrorism all across our country: We expect first-class devotion, service and sacrifice, but we will treat you like second-class citizens,” says AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney.

Workers Lose Rules Covering Health Care Benefits, Seniority and More

In Indiana, Gov. Mitch Daniels (R), Bush’s former director of the Office of Management and Budget, issued an executive order that repealed 15 years of collective bargaining rights supported by the state’s past three governors.

Daniels’s action eliminated the bargaining rights of some 25,000 workers and also rescinded contracts negotiated to run through 2007. Those contracts spelled out health care benefits, grievance and disciplinary rules, seniority, bidding and transfer rights and vacation time.

In Missouri, Gov. Matt Blunt’s (R) executive order took away the bargaining rights of about 25,000 AFSCME and SEIU members, including some 9,000 who had reached contracts with the state. Blunt told reporters he believes his action also canceled those contracts, most of which were set to run through 2006.

In Indiana, workers who lost their bargaining rights include 8,600 AFSCME members, including hospital attendants, welfare case workers and professional health care workers; 14,500 workers represented by the Unity Team—an alliance between AFT and UAW—including mechanics and clerical workers; and 1,400 state troopers and other law enforcement personnel in the International Union of Police Associations.

Workers’ Rights Also Attacked by Bush, NLRB

“The union is the only safeguard against management taking advantage of employees. This turns back the clock in Indiana,” Irene Hansen, a Unity Team member who works at the Indiana State Library, told the Indianapolis Star.

Workers won their collective bargaining rights in 2001 when then Missouri Gov. Bob Holden (D) issued an executive order allowing workers to form unions and negotiate contracts with the state.

The actions by the Republican governors mirror Bush’s attack on federal workers’ rights. In 2002, he strong-armed Congress to undermine the civil service and collective bargaining rights of 170,000 workers in the newly created U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In 2003, the Bush administration denied collective bargaining rights to tens of thousands of airport screeners.

In 2004, the Bush-controlled NLRB effectively eliminated the rights of temporary agency workers to win a voice on the job; ruled that graduate employees are not protected by federal labor law; and began to review rules regarding majority sign-up (card-check) procedures, which enable workers to more fairly and quickly indicate whether they want a union. Majority sign-up offers an alternative to the lengthy NLRB election process, which actually encourages employers to block workers’ free choice. The Bush NLRB also has ruled disabled workers do not have the freedom to form a union, it has restricted workers’ right to strike and refused to impose effective remedies when employers violate workers’ rights during organizing campaigns.


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