So Called Right to Work Legislation in Maine
These days, much is written, and discussed, about the so called "Right to Work." It is important to distinguish between the human Right to Work, as it pertains to basic human rights, and the latest "Right to Work law" proposals in Maine. Organized electricians join the working men and women across America in fighting this attempt to artificially lower our wages by placing tradesmen who have organized at a distinct disadvantage.
While right to work laws have not been passed in Maine, we have seen that the same anti-worker propaganda that drove this legislation in formerly strong United States manufacturing states like Michigan and Indiana is also present here. We must be very careful, as citizens, as workers, not to be drawn in and seduced by any language that promises an "easy fix" to our country's lingering economic challenges. Even as things better, many workers, IBEW electricians and others, still seek the diginity and security offered by full-time employment - at a livable wage.
We at Electricians Local 567 feel it is important to remember the words of Dr. King, who spoke eloquently and directly on the issue of Right to Work and identified very clearly the menace that this kind of legislation - and thinking - poses to all workers and Maine trades people, affiliated and non.
We must never forget that Dr. King died while marching with the Memphis Sanitation workers, to uphold their right to organize and bargain collectively. These workers were organizing for both wages and dignity as Dr. King told his audience the night before he died.
Previously, on the specific subject of called Right to Work Laws, Dr. King noted in 1961:
“We must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone…Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.” —Dr. Martin Luther King
While those of us who work in the construction trades have our own issues unique to our individual skills and craft, compared to those Memphis Sanitation workers, it is also true that without their efforts, the lives of working men and women in both our state and the United States would be quite different. For this we are in their debt, as well as the Maine workers and tradesmen and women who have preceded us. We are the guardians of their legacy, and the actions we take now will impact our children's and grand-children's future.
Right to work supposes that construction costs, specifically, the cost of the skilled labor required to construct and maintain Portland Maine's buildings and critical infrastructure, is artificially high - due to, quote, “Big Labor's” selfish interference and meddling.
Please allow us to debunk this myth.
Electrical Shops that Survive....and Thrive!
Our affiliated electrical contractors all run succesful businesses that are bound by the same market forces as any other. These businesses have survived through-out the years, and in some cases decades, for one reason : we understand that we must always provide exceptional value, and return on investment (ROI) to Maine's general contractors, developers, and project managers, as well as to its residents, on whatever what project we work on.
“Right to work” would, in fact, artificially suppress the wages of workers who have devoted years of their lives developing the necessary skills and on the job training required to perform necessary energy upgrades and safe electrical work. It is this training that will help Maine preserve, protect, and ugprade its grid, and related energy systems, in the years to come.
Since Right to work is weak on the facts, its sole basis is a reliance on fear - the well known "race to the bottom." Its proponents, including curent Maine Gov. John LePage will tout it as a job creator, when in fact, it is "wage suppressor." Every day we read more and more stories about the devastating impact of wage inequality is having on ordinary families and workers in Maine and the United States. Again, what type of legacy do we wish to leave our children? Both the Maine electricians and the workers in the communities around us share this responsbility.
We all benefit from safely constructed and properly maintained work spaces built by those best trained to do so – who are compensated by a working, livable wage. This in turn stimulates the surrounding economy. What Maine business – of any kind – does not benefit from workers with actual disposable income to spend? Economists term this well-known impact "the multiplier effect." As members, both of the Maine electricians, and the surrounding community, we must familiarize ourselves with these arguments and not be taken in by sound bites and slogans that are profoundly anti-worker. Any avoidance of these basic economic facts, no matter how much the “steak may sizzle” is pure fantasy.
Just because something is priced lowed doesn't mean it costs less. When safety is compromised, and jobs are short cut, we are all at risk.
Please do not take these words as my sole opinion. IBEW-NECA safety and training instructors will all say exactly this : the intricacies of modern day electrical work in our current environment create both security and safety challenges. In the name of winning contracts, these risks are downplayed by firms and owners who either have 1) not made similar investments in requisite safety and training or 2) seek to impose restrictions on Maine's ability to decide collectively the best way ahead with our necessary structural improvements.
To be sure, there are also some non-affiliated electrical firms in Maine who provide excellent training and care deeply about the safety of their electricians and workers. To such firms and their electricians, we extend our hand : please join us! Any race to the bottom in our trade will adversely impact your business as well. I am sure you will have questions, and real business concerns.
Please get in touch with myself or one of our business reps so that we may address these.
Richard Deering, Business Manager
On Behalf on the Portland and Lewiston, ME Affiliated Electricians of IBEW 567