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Public Statements

So Called Right To Work

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Ms. KAPTUR. Mr. Speaker, as a Representative from Ohio, a State that borders Michigan, I rise to stand in solidarity with the workers of Michigan. Many Ohioans I represent actually drive to work in Michigan. And due to the high-handed actions of Michigan's Governor and its legislature, they actually railroaded legislation through Michigan, with no hearings, to take away the rights of Michigan workers to fund the collective bargaining process that results in living-wage worker contracts.

The workers of Michigan are fighting to maintain their rights to a fair day's wage for a fair day's work. I support their rights and the rights of every American to organize and negotiate by contract for proper pay and benefits, regardless of which State they live in. The rights of labor by contract are critical to growing our middle class, as opposed to rights by happenstance that are always up for grabs, where workers have no rights and live in fear of the future.

Michigan's Republican ideologues passed so-called ``right-to-work'' legislation. Well, let's be clear: the bill being pushed there by the far right should really be called the Right to Work for Less. And that is exactly what President Obama called it. To quote Bob King, the visionary president of the United Auto Workers of this country:

Every right-to-work State has lower wages, lower benefits, less security for workers and more income inequality.

And they have a shrinking middle class. The UAW is right: if you happen to live and work in a State that has a so-called right-to-work law on the books, you earn an average of $5,000 less a year than if you lived in a worker rights State. The bill signed last night in Michigan strips labor organizations of their right to collect dues to cover the cost of negotiating a collective bargaining agreement.

The Michigan law is pure politics. No, it is more than that. It is an old-school union-busting technique, pure and simple. And in Michigan and Ohio, we know a lot about union busting. As a daughter of auto workers, I know the history of the hired goons who bludgeoned auto workers back in the 1930s at River Rouge as workers began to stand up for their human rights as they labored in the dungeons of the automotive production facilities at the time.

I actually would like to challenge the Governor of Michigan to come with me and let's work on the line for a month in one of those repetitive-motion jobs that make and characterize modern automotive production. They're not easy jobs. I would like him to install the windows on the right side of a vehicle as it moves down the line over and over and over and over and over and over again. Let's see how much fun he'll have.

A year ago, we in Ohio witnessed a similar effort to eliminate unions. Right-wing legislators moved through legislation that would have ended collective bargaining as we know it in Ohio for public sector workers. We're talking about firefighters, police, and teachers. Well, the people of Ohio broadly rejected that union busting earlier this year.

Citizens organized a ballot initiative to restore worker rights in Ohio, and they won. It was called Issue 2. The people of Ohio voted to overwhelmingly protect the rights of those who protect us and who teach our children.

While worker rights were protected in Ohio, up north, what was done in Lansing, intends to extend far beyond the borders of just Michigan. It will impact workers who commute from my State of Ohio and Indiana.

This is about more than just one State. In fact, this is a national issue, not a states' rights issue at all. The Michigan union-busting bill is a direct result of weak Federal legislation, and I'm talking about section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act, which weakens the rights of labor. Congress should overturn that part of the law and reaffirm its role in protecting the internationally recognized labor rights of every American citizen.

That is why I have joined a number of my colleagues in introducing legislation, H.R. 2775, that would do just that. We should not have individual States competing against each other in a race to the bottom. Haven't we seen enough of that?

We need to support and build back the American middle class by creating good jobs, good-paying jobs, and secure benefits through secure contracts. I stand attired in red today in solidarity with the workers of Michigan, and I am proud to do so.

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