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Using the recent attacks against public employee unions as a case study, the following subsections show how model legislation has been written by the staffs of national corporate-funded lobbies and introduced in largely cookie-cutter fashion in multiple states across the country.
The most aggressive actions have been concentrated in a relatively narrow group of states that, though they did not necessarily face the most pressing fiscal problems, offered the combination of economic motive and political possibility to warrant the attention of the nation’s most powerful corporate lobbies. Scott Walker proposed sharply curtailing union rights in 2011, he presented his legislation as a response to the particular fiscal conditions facing Wisconsin.
Two years later, however, it is clear that the attack on public employee unions has been part of a broader agenda aiming to cut wages and benefits and erode working conditions and legal protections for all workers—whether union or non-union, in the public and private sectors alike.
This push to erode labor standards, undercut wages, and undermine unions has been advanced by policymakers pursuing a misguided economic agenda working in tandem with the major corporate lobbies.
This report begins by examining the recent offensive aimed at public-sector unions in order to point out the tactics commonly employed by corporate lobbies such as ALEC and the Chamber of Commerce; it establishes that their agenda is driven by political strategies rather than fiscal necessities.
New Jersey’s and Minnesota’s legislatures both voted to limit public employees’ ability to bargain over health care.5 Ohio legislators adopted a law—later overturned by citizen referendum—largely imitating Wisconsin’s, prohibiting employees from bargaining over anything but wages, outlawing strikes, and doing away with the practice of binding arbitration (the only impartial means of settling a contract dispute without a right to strike) in favor of the state agencies’ right to set contract terms unilaterally.By far the most galvanizing and most widely reported legislative battle of the past two years was Wisconsin Gov.Scott Walker’s “budget repair bill” that, in early 2011, largely eliminated collective bargaining rights for the state’s 175,000 public employees.1 Following this, in 20: The champions of anti-union legislation often portrayed themselves as the defenders of non-union workers—whom they characterized as hard-working private-sector taxpayers being forced to pick up the tab for public employees’ lavish pay and pensions.This report provides a broad overview of the attack on wages, labor standards, and workplace protections as it has been advanced in state legislatures across the country.Specifically, the report seeks to illuminate the agenda to undermine wages and labor standards being advanced for non-union Americans in order to understand how this fits with the far better-publicized assaults on the rights of unionized employees.