On the News With Thom Hartmann: Supreme Court Strikes Another Blow to Unions, and More

In today’s On the News segment: Our nation’s highest court strikes another blow to public unions; loss of tax revenue has plunged Kansas deep into deficit; Walmart’s war on workers isn’t unique to the United States; and more.

TRANSCRIPT:

Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of Economic and Labor News…

You need to know this. Last week, our nation’s highest court struck another blow to public unions. The case, Harris v. Quinn, arose from a group of home-health workers in Illinois who did not want to contribute so-called “fair share fees” to a public union. Regardless of the workers’ membership status, that union was obligated to negotiate on their behalf, and helped negotiate substantial pay increases for these workers. However, the home-based aides argued that they were not truly public employees, and that these fees were a violation of their First Amendment rights. Keeping with the Court’s history of ruling against workers, the conservative Justices ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, and drilled another nail into the coffin of public unions. Without these agency fees, public unions may have to charge higher dues to members, and membership rates will likely decline. Although the Supreme Court claims to have issued a narrow ruling, by reclassifying this type of workers as “partial public employees,” they strongly hinted that they will continue striking blows to public unions in future rulings. Regardless of this new classification, unions are forced to negotiate on behalf of all workers – including those who do not join the union. By allowing some workers to opt out of agency fees, the Supreme Court gave them a free ride. Thanks to the five right-wing members of the Court, some workers will get all the benefits of unions, without having to contribute to the cost of negotiation. This is yet another example of the conservative attack on workers, and another case of Justices going to great lengths to enact their political will. It’s time to reign in the power of the Supreme Court, and protect our shrinking right to bargain collectively. If we don’t fight back, it’s only a matter of time before unions disappear completely.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand basic math, but apparently lawmakers in Kansas still don’t get it. Two years ago, Governor Sam Brownback proposed the largest tax cut any state has ever enacted in a single year. Unsurprisingly, the loss of tax revenue has plunged Kansas deep into deficit. When he proposed the legislation, Governor Brownback predicted that the massive tax cuts would trigger an economic boom in Kansas. Unsurprisingly, by shrinking the size of their revenue, Governor Brownback damned his state to huge budget shortfalls, and even the rating agency Moody’s has downgrading their debt. This ridiculous theory that cutting taxes will increase revenue is laughable on its face, and it has been debunked for decades. The fact is, people like Sam Brownback don’t enact these policies to create economic growth. They enact them to give rich people tax breaks, and to have an excuse to slash government spending. It’s time to elect people who work for all Americans, and who enact policies that help those of us who are not billionaires.

Walmart’s war on workers isn’t unique to the United States. Back in 2004, the retail giant actually closed a store in Canada after workers there voted to join a union. The difference, however, is that the Canadian Supreme Court has some respect for that nation’s labor laws. Last month, the Supreme Court of Canada found that Walmart violated employment law by closing that store without a valid reason. Although a company spokesperson said that they did not close the location to retaliate against workers, Canada’s high court didn’t buy it. The retailer will likely have to pay restitution to the 190 workers laid off from that location, which could include payments for damages and interest. Even if it’s in another country, it’s nice to see Walmart being held accountable for some of their anti-worker tactics.

Last week, Tennessee’s newest law took effect – and anyone who needs welfare in that state may now be subject to a drug test. Apparently, right-wing lawmakers in that state weren’t satisfied with denying healthcare to the poor, so now, they’re also going to treat the needy like common criminals. Similar programs have been attempted in other Red states, and not a single one has been shown to be effective. Not only do poor people use drugs at lower rates than the general population, but these programs have ended up costing taxpayers much more money than they claimed they would save. In addition, a similar law in Florida was actually struck down by a federal appeals court, and it’s likely that this law will be challenged as unconstitutional. Drug testing of welfare recipients is simply another way to demonize the poor, and a way to make it even harder for those in need to get a little help. It’s bad enough that Tennessee Republicans refuse to expand healthcare to those in need, but it’s flat out disgusting that they think poverty should be treated like a crime.

And finally… College students are fighting to protect their right to vote. Students from North Carolina State University are joining a lawsuit challenging a recent voting law in that state. That law made it mandatory that voters present a photo ID to vote, however, the legislation excluded student ID as an acceptable for of identification. The lawsuit claims that the new law is a violation of the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age to 18. That amendment also states that the right to vote, “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age.” By excluding a form of identification primarily used by younger voters, North Carolina’s law essentially blocks that age group from voting. Over the last few years, Republican lawmakers in several states have enacted measures to make it harder for young people to vote. They know that young people are more likely to support Progressive ideas, and so Republicans want to keep them out of the voting booth. Thankfully, college students are not about to give up their right to vote so easily, and they’ll only inspire more young people to fight back in other states.

And that’s the way it is – for the week of July 7, 2014 – I’m Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.