Folks can argue about the success of the war in Iraq, but no one can argue about who’s winning Oklahoma’s war – its war on workers.
Thanks to right-to-work and help from free trade policies, labor unions are facing their slow demise in the Sooner State.
Union membership in Oklahoma is dropping as manufacturing jobs leave the state and the effects of the right-to-work law is felt.
The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics says about 86,000 Oklahomans were union members last year, down from about 96,000 in 2003. There were 128,000 union workers in the state in 2002.
This is great news for business as good paying jobs leave the state and more skilled workers fill the labor pool. Employers with lower paying jobs are lured by the state’s promises of ever diminishing worker rights and ever greater taxpayer subsidies.
Oklahoma’s Dept. of Labor is already more anti-labor than the state Commerce Department. Labor Commissioner Brenda Reneau thinks her job is to hold Oklahoma labor down rather than build it up. The choice last week of Patrick McGuigan as new Deputy Labor Commissioner shows her level of respect for regular working Okies. McGuigan was a right-wing extremist editorial director of the Daily Oklahoman when it was (accurately) recognized as the worst newspaper in America. McGuigan is to worker rights as Michael Jackson is to children.
And that’s not the worst of it. With the help of election campaign funding mechanisms, Chambers of Commerce along with other corporate interest groups can be counted on to pressure lawmakers to continually reduce liabilities on employers and subsequently increase burdens on working families. Look at it from their view…
For instance: Why should companies have to pay sales tax on items used to increase profits when working folks already pay plenty of sales tax on food and other basic necessities? Just because you have to pay taxes doesn’t mean corporations should too. Are you really that petty that you would feel better if corporations paid the same taxes as you?
Or why should a person generating income from real estate or stock investments have to pay the same income tax rate on their capital gains as a guy working one or two jobs pays on his wages? Reducing taxes on workers means they will probably just go out and spend it on things for their family, something frivolous like housing or health care. But giving more money to wealthy investors might result in financing another Wal-Mart in town closer to you than the other one. And maybe some Chinese factories to manufacture products to stock it.
However, let’s not get complacent. As good as right-to-work has been at weakening unions and enticing quality employers to the state who happen to distrust their “associates” and “team members”, the war on workers is not yet over. Until the drive to eradicate unions is complete, employers are free from all worker liabilities not otherwise guaranteed by the federal government, and the entire societal tax burden shifted to wage earners, business groups will have to continue funding their army of mercenary legislators and infantry lobbyists.
At the rate we’re going, the war will soon be over, and then Oklahoma workers will have secured their place in an economic utopia, all thanks to unbridled capitalism.
Addendum – Wal-Mart fights another battle for the cause.
Wal-Mart said Wednesday that it will close a store in Canada where workers were close to establishing the retail giant’s first labor union, according to The Associated Press.