Monday, February 27, 2012

The right's not right on workers' rights

The Schenectady Sunday Gazette's yesterday sent a chill down my spine while making me hot under the collar. It was either the onset of the flu or another right turn by this once-fine newspaper.

At issue were two pieces in the paper's "Opinion" section. The Gazette seemed eager to strut its anti-labor stuff with a front-page centerpiece supporting passage of a "right to work" law in New York state. Note the quote marks deliberately placed; such laws are the antithesis of right to work.

The piece was written by a Schenectadian by the name of Ken Moore. He is an eloquent, thoughtful writer. And he's also dead wrong.

Here are the facts about "right to work" laws: They guarantee no worker a job, protect no worker against on-the-job bias or retaliation, and ensure no worker a fair wage. And, according to a study by the American Rights at Work organization, a not-for-profit that supports workers' rights and their choice to form a union, "right to work" laws don't create new employment opportunities nor help improve a state's economy. They are nothing more than an orchestrated effort to bust unions. That just won't play in Schenectady, Mr. Moore. Unions helped build this town and continue to have strong support.

Meanwhile, while they were in a worker-bashing mood, the Sunday Gazette editorial writers called on Gov. Cuomo to "use his considerable political capital" to put an end to the Triborough Amendment of the state's Taylor Law. Put simply, Triborough assures that the terms and conditions of a public-sector contract remain in effect after it expires. The intent is to ensure the employer (a school district or municipality) doesn't have an incentive to delay or draw out good-faith contract negotiations. It protects workers who continue to do their jobs and lights a fire under negotiators on both sides of the table.

The Triborough Amendment has come under attack before by those who want to lay all the troubles of the world on working men and women. But it continually withstands potshots and politics, bombast and bad economies. The reason? New Yorkers understand fairness and respect hard work. Our community would be better served if its "independent voice" did the same.

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