Union campaign to boost image of public workers
SAM HANANEL | Associated Press
January 14, 2011
Union leaders plan to launch a multimillion dollar campaign to boost the image of government workers and fend off pay cuts, benefit rollbacks and other anti-union measures in states under fiscal siege.
The scope of the effort is unusual in a non-election year, and it signals a growing concern that unions could lose significant clout in states where the political climate has changed with Republicans in control in many legislatures.
“It’s a pretty unprecedented attack on public sector workers and workers in all industries,” said Naomi Walker, director of state government relations at the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest labor federation.
Cash-strapped states from New York to California want to freeze wages or cut pension benefits of public employees to help balance budgets. At least 16 states are expected to consider legislation that would take away the right of unions to use payroll deductions for political purposes. And 10 other states may take up “right to work” bills that would prevent workers from being required to join or pay dues to a union.
Walker said unions plan to get their message out with phone banks, public rallies, and stepped-up lobbying efforts in at least a dozen state legislatures.
The action was set to kick off in Ohio on Friday night. Hundreds of workers planned to hold a candlelight vigil in Cincinnati to protest Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s plan to prohibit home health care and child care workers paid by the state from joining unions.
“These lawmakers are hiding behind the guise of fiscal austerity and budget cuts in order to move a conservative corporate agenda that seeks to weaken the power of workers to organize and bargain collectively for better wages and a better quality of life,” said AFL-CIO spokeswoman Alison Omens.
Other states where unions plan to focus include those where organized labor traditionally has wielded power, such as Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
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