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Jul
2013
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Latest Research Shows 117 ALEC Model Bills, Many Anti-Worker and Wage, Have Been Introduced in Statehouses During 2013

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New research from the Center for Media and Democracy shows that in 2013 at least 117 bills have been introduced that resemble model bills from the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  These bills help fuel a “race to the bottom” approach to American wages that greatly favor ALEC’s corporate membership at the expense of the average American worker.  This has been the goal of ALEC since 1979 when it began its campaign against “forced unionism” and in favor of “Right-to-Work” legislation.  

Now, as ALEC prepares to celebrate its 40th anniversary with a meeting in Chicago that will take place on August 7th and 8th, their influence continues to go relatively unchecked.  

Here is a brief overview of some of the anti-worker legislation currently being pushed by ALEC (via the Center for Media and Democracy):

ALEC’s so-called “Right to Work Act” bill (introduced in 15 states in 2013) does nothing to create jobs or job security, but it does shred the fabric of unions by preventing them from requiring each employee who benefits from the terms of a contract to pay his or her share of the costs of administering it. While unions can exist in “Right to Work” states, they are in a much weaker position. When a state can’t pass a proposal as radical as “Right to Work,” ALEC has provided dozens of other options.

• Multiple bills attacking prevailing wage, living wages, and minimum wages have been introduced across the country (in at least 14 states). ALEC is on record as being against these measures that not only put an upward pressure on wages in a region but also set a very low floor (a full-time worker earning minimum wage earns $15,080 a year, which is not much for a family of four to live on) below which not even the Koch brothers are allowed to pay.ALEC advances privatization and outsourcing of public services to workers with fewer credentials, lower salaries and fewer benefits, with model bills such as the Council On Efficient Government Act(introduced in four states), which establishes a committee to assess how for-profit corporations can capture taxpayer dollars by operating public services.

• Michigan’s Mackinac Center — an ALEC member and a member of the network of right-wing state-based think tanks the State Policy Network that works closely with ALEC — brought three new bills limiting workers’ rights to ALEC’s Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development Task Force in 2012: “The Election Accountability for Municipal Employee Union Representatives Act” (introduced in Idaho) would require public sector employees to vote on unionization every three to five years (a majority of all eligible members — not just voting members — would be required to maintain union representation); “The Decertification Elections Act” (introduced in Arizona) would make it easier for both public and private employees to decertify their union; and “The Financial Accountability for Public Employee Unions Act” (introduced in Montana; passed Michigan in 2012) would require public sector unions to publish audits of their financial activities.

• Ten states introduced proposals to dramatically alter pensions for teachers and other public employees by moving towards the elimination of defined benefit pension plans (which guarantee a certain level of benefits), to be replaced by defined contribution plans (which leave the payout to market forces). These bills reflect the principles in the ALEC “Public Employees’ Portable Retirement Option (PRO) Act” and the ALEC “Statement of Principles on State and Local Government Pension and Other Post Employment Benefits Plans.” These proposals are backed by big Wall Street firms, which earn money by extracting millions of dollars in fees and administration costs from privately-managed retirement plans. It is worth noting that ALEC also supports the privatization of Social Security, with its “Resolution Urging Congress To Modernize the Social Security System With Personal Retirement Accounts (PRA’s)” (introduced in Arizona this year).

Large corporations that fuel ALEC reap the rewards when these bills pass while workers bear the brunt of the negative impact.  Specifically, some ALEC bills will directly help companies suppress workers’ quality of life. A perfect example of this is ALEC’s prolonged fight against laws that mandate paid sick days for employees.  This fight includes overriding laws that are already on the books.  This was the case in Wisconsin, an ALEC hotbed, where Act 16 overrode the state’s popular sick days ordinance. For many workers, laws like these protect them from the dangers of losing their job due to illness.  

The Center for Media and Democracy give the example of Flora Anaya, who worked at Palermo’s Pizza in Milwaukee.  Palermo’s pizza has a track record of mistreating its employees.  With the help of ALEC they now have legal precedence for the anti-worker actions.

Flora Anaya told the CMD about the reality of working for an employer who is friendly to the ALEC model of legislation.

Getting any type of day off for being sick was extremely hard. Palermo’s sick day policy was absolutely inhumane. If you missed three days within six months, you would lose your job, even if you brought a doctor’s excuse. And if you were one minute late to work, it was treated as an absence for the entire day.

In 2009, I was pregnant and in pain. One day it was so bad, I asked for permission to leave to go to the emergency room. I told one supervisor, but that supervisor didn’t relay it to my line supervisor, and they stopped me from leaving. This happened all the time, to so many of us.

As ALEC’s vision for an America devoid of worker protections becomes a reality, the fight against these policies must be ramped up.  Awareness is step one and rejecting politicians who adhere to the ALEC ideology is step two.  A complete list of anti-worker bills sponsored by ALEC can be found on the CMD website.

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