By Jaime Weinman - Tuesday, January 15, 2013 - 0 Comments
Right-to-work laws target the same labour unions that helped fund Obama’s victory
As Republicans try to rebuild after November’s electoral defeat, one of their priorities for 2013 may be going after the sources of the Democrats’ power—and no target is easier, or more inviting, than labour unions. The first post-election salvo against unions came in Michigan, home to thousands of unionized auto workers. By signing a right-to-work law outlawing requirements that workers pay union fees to work, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder may have inspired other Republican-controlled states. Groups like the pro-business American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which provided the template for Michigan’s law, are already hoping to take the fight to other blue states in 2013.
Weakening unions has been a traditional Republican priority, from 1947’s Taft-Hartley Act that restricted union power, to former president Ronald Reagan’s famous fight with the air-traffic controllers’ union in 1981. But in past decades, there was a countervailing pro-union wing of the party, consisting of moderate northeastern Republicans. Now most are gone, and the party stars tend to align with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who once declared: “I love that we are one of the least unionized states in the country.”
Beyond party ideology, taking on unions has a clear political advantage: right-to-work laws cut off an outside source of funding for the Democratic party—funding that helped drive the get-out-the-vote operations which propelled President Barack Obama to victory in most swing states. But by reducing the amount of money unions can collect by an estimated 20 to 30 per cent, the new Michigan law might make it harder for future Democratic presidential candidates to win the state.
Of course, there are political risks: Mitt Romney’s stance against Obama’s auto bailout may have cost him labour-friendly states like Ohio and Michigan. And while groups like ALEC are already eyeing Republican-controlled Pennsylvania as a possible new right-to-work state, Gov. Tom Corbett says “there is not much of a movement to do it.” Then again, movements can start pretty quickly: Snyder once called such laws “divisive,” and said they were “not on my agenda,” only to change his mind this year. It remains to be seen whether other governors will, too.
By Alex Ballingall - Monday, April 16, 2012 at 9:48 AM - 0 Comments
American Legislative Exchange Council is a one-stop bill shop
For much of its 39-year history, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has influenced U.S. politics from the shadows. It wasn’t until a public outcry over how so-called “stand your ground” legislation in Florida is being used to defend the man accused of killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin that ALEC came to widespread attention. Now, the non-profit organization is taking heat for supporting a spate of similar, broad self-defence laws in other states.
ALEC drafts ready-to-legislate bills for conservative-minded lawmakers. It has been criticized for drafting a bill that may have been the basis for Arizona’s divisive law giving police extra powers to search suspected illegal immigrants. Ramped-up voter-ID laws in states like Idaho and Oklahoma have reportedly been inspired by ALEC bills as well.
The group counts nearly 2,000 state legislators as members, and it is supported by a long list of corporations including Wal-Mart, Exxon Mobil and AT&T. But the new-found public attention has been quick to make an impact. Last week, Coca-Cola, Kraft and software developer Intuit cut ties with ALEC. The businesses no doubt had their own legislative agenda—Coke said it was focused on beverage taxes—but getting dragged through the mud wasn’t part of it.