This letter is in response to Mark Dobbins’ (chairman of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry) commentary “Federal regulators are out of control” in the Sept. 2 issue of the Arizona Capitol Times.
The National Labor Relations Board recently released a new guideline to businesses which indicates that they are to post, conspicuously in the workplace, the rights of workers to form and join a union. This rule is long overdue in all practical purposes, and is not in the least “burdensome” or “job killing” in a realistic business world. These terms are commonly used by some business leaders whenever they are referencing the protection of workers by way of union representation or the NLRB. I say only “some” business leaders, because much of the time, it seems that a few speak for the many.
The fantasy of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry is that somehow, by the onerous government regulation of an 11-inch by 17-inch poster, powerful labor bosses and their unions from all around the country will descend on Arizona and force all workers, in all industries, into their unions. Reality is that since 1948, Arizona has been a right-to-work state, which mandates that no worker can be forced to join a union if he or she does not desire to so. Personally, I do not have an issue with that premise, because I know that in Arizona, the members that I represent in the electrical construction industry and members all across the entire Maricopa Area Labor Federation — all 105,000 of them — are here because they believe in what labor unions stand for: representing the interests of workers.
The commentary of Mr. Dobbins also included a rhetorical question of: “Am I missing something here?” Well Mr. Dobbins, you are.
Much has been said about the need for jobs to drive the economic recovery, but what kind of jobs, and more importantly, what kind of wages and benefits will be included with those jobs? If we pave the road to recovery with jobs that pay low wages and even lower benefits, then what kind of recovery should we expect? The poor and middle class, especially in Arizona, have suffered the greatest through this recession. Not just jobs, but careers lost; health insurance lost; houses lost; and communities broken. Now I’m sure a few will disagree, but the fact is, the well-off have felt little to none of those losses! And yet what ends up on the table for spurring economic growth? You guessed it… More tax cuts.
More tax cuts which will yield less investment in our schools, roads, infrastructure and medical care.
All of which contribute to putting working families back to work, and an economic recovery back on track! If you are so worried about putting Arizonans back to work Mr. Dobbins, why don’t you focus your efforts where they need to be? Why are you so worried about a poster? Why are you so worried about working men and women earning a wage applicable to the country we live in? Do you really think we need to be like China to compete with China? What happened to the premise of competitiveness through the efficiency and productivity of an American worker? Your article was titled “Federal regulators are out of control,” and yet an entire Arizona state agency, the Arizona Department of Commerce, was closed to save the state money. It was replaced by the Arizona Commerce Authority, which is costing the state millions more in additional taxpayer dollars; is run by business leaders who are looking out for their own interests in the form of more tax cuts “to spur job growth,” and the new agency’s board decided to pay the Commerce Authority CEO a $1 million contract. I know you see this going on, and yet you focus your efforts on an agency which assures workers receive fair treatment, in a nondiscriminating process toward both workers and management.
Mr. Dobbins, labor unions have been representing workers in both public and private sectors of Arizona’s economy for more than 100 years; longer than Arizona has been a state. Your wishful proclamations of a broken model are false. Labor unions in the private sector experience growth and contraction just like every facet of industry. As business leaders continue to press the middle class for concessions to bolster profits, workers will more and more turn to labor unions to advocate for fair treatment through collective bargaining. And I’m happy to have those “out-of-control” regulators help inform workers of those rights under the law.
— Shawn Hutchinson is president of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers — Local 640 and chairman of the Maricopa Area Labor Federation.