A labor community group in Seattle (OWLS)petitions the Supreme Court

A Carpenter explains  how unions and OWLS are responding to Right to Work inroads.

The following was submitted by a carpenter and OWLS member and may not represent the views of The Control Line


If  a Criminal calls you on the phone and tells you he plans to kill you,

            Shouldn’t you prepare to defend yourself?

Right to work forces are salivating to kill the unions, but

            Union Leadership is flat footed.

Organized Workers for Labor Solidarity (OWLS), a labor community group in Seattle, took upon itself to respond to the escalating right wing threat called right to work. Even with Scalia now unable to cast his vote, OWLS main concern has been and continues to be Friedrich’s v. California Teachers Association, heard by the Supreme Court in January. Basically, Ms. Friedrich’s wants all the benefits union members get – good wages, medical, pension and union representation, but not have to pay a dime to get those benefits. She wants to be a freeloader.

Ms. Friedrich’s intention, as well as her sponsor, the Center for Individual Rights, is to create a right to work environment for all public employees. If what happened in Wisconsin when Governor Scott Walker signed a right to work bill effecting all Wisconsin state employees is an indicator, i.e., Wisconsin public employee unions reported membership declines above 50%, right to work in the public sector nation-wide will gut public sector unions. Union membership in the U.S. has hovered around 11% with public employee unions making up half of that percentage. A dismantling of public employee unions will be disastrous for what is left of the union movement. Once public sector unions are eliminated, the right wing will do everything it can to suffocate the remaining private sector unions.

Minimally alarmed, Labor leadership has been flatfooted. There have been workshops trying to figure out how to respond. Last summer when Labor Notes held its Trouble Maker School in Seattle, local labor representatives had no viable plan to respond to this imminent threat. Last January, the King County Labor Council (KCLC) had public forum to discuss its response. The plan is reach out to union members educating them to stay in their unions. This is too little, too late. This is what labor should have been doing for the past two years when the last state legislative threat was made by the Freedom Foundation. The Washington State Labor Council started to go down that road, but shortsightedly stopped when the threat “disappeared.”

OWLS calls on Labor to fight back.

            All labor should support the AFSCME resolution.

             Last summer OWLS produced an Anti-rt2wrk brochure, the purpose of which was to educate union members to take this threat seriously and to motivate their respective unions from the bottom-up to take action. On January 11th when the Supreme Court heard the oral arguments for Friedrich’s, the AFL-CIO mustered 800 union members to protest on the steps of the Court, OWLS realized that Labor’s leadership had abdicated its responsibility to wage a vigorous defensive campaign.

So, OWLS has gone to the next stage by developing an Anti-Friedrich’s petition campaign urging the Supreme Court to rule against Friedrich’s. OWLS will be sending signatures to the Court into the summer until the ruling has been made.

OWLS was an early endorser of the an American Federation of Federal, State and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) resolution for Labor to march on Washington and demand the court rule against Friedrich’s. These public employee members know directly what not having a union will mean. They will have no protection from the whims of administrators. Wage increases will be arbitrary and selective. Wage decreases are more likely. Sycophants will reap rewards. All others might as well apply elsewhere.  And government agencies will become empires unto themselves, the public be damned.

Carpenters Local 30 & The Pacific NW Regional Council of Carpenters Respond

I am a member of OWLS. When I first brought this issue to the Local 30 Executive Board, there was no hemming and hawing. Everyone there, rank-and-filer as well as union rep alike, quickly understood the implications of the Friedrich’s threat, as did the Local 30 membership. Support for both the AFSCME resolution and the Anti-Friedrich’s petition passed unopposed.

Local 30 delegates attending the February Regional Council Delegate Meeting, got the Regional Council to support both the initiative and the resolution. The word has gone out to all the affiliate unions. I got a call Keith Montgomery, Regional Council staff rep, from Anchorage, Alaska. He told me Americans for Prosperity are out on Anchorage streets with right to work propaganda -“You can ‘quit’ your union, keep your dues check off, still keep your job and still demand union representation. You too can become a freeloader.” But in the fine print which is magnified here makes you understand you might as well take your gun and shoot yourself in the foot -“Once your union is defunct and there is no union movement, you will have lost the last real weapon you had to secure good wages and benefits. You will take what we give you and we ain’t gonna give you much.”

Keith wanted access to the OWLS Anti-rt2wrk brochure. There are members in his local ready to fight back and begin handing those brochures and the OWLS NO to Friedrich’s petition out on Anchorage streets to set the record straight. Right to work is a fraud. It has always been a fraud. It will always be fraud. And it was developed by a racist bigot, a business man with a long anti-labor history. That is a true story for another time.

Recently both Executive Secretary Tweedy and General President McCarron have signed the petition. Now one union is beginning to take this threat to our livelihoods seriously. You can do the same in your union. You can get your local union to respond, your labor councils to respond and if you happen upon your union leadership, they are not going to turn you down.

 Sign onto the OWLS NO to Friedrich’s Petition

Call me if you need Anti-rt2wrk brochures or  hard copies of the NO to Friedrich’s Petitions to hand out in your community. The time has come to rise up and put these economic criminals out of business.

Pat Burns         206.261.1420

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There are some problems with the above by Mr. Burns. For one, the Friedrich petition is not going to change the minds of the Supreme Court, it will do nothing. Two, this line is dishonest, "Recently both Executive Secretary Tweedy and General President McCarron have signed the petition. Now one union is beginning to take this threat to our livelihoods seriously. You can do the same in your union. You can get your local union to respond, your labor councils to respond and if you happen upon your union leadership, they are not going to turn you down."

The Carpenters Union is not beginning to take the threat of Right to Work seriously just because the biggest union leaders decided to sign an absolutely powerless petition to the Supreme Court. What Mr. Burns ignores is that the day he was asking Doug McCarron and Doug Tweedy to sign the OWLS petition to the Supreme Court (at a Hillary Clinton rally no less), thousands of protesters stormed a Donald Trump rally in Chicago to "shut it down," the future face of Right to Work himself. Did Doug McCarron mention it? No. Did Doug Tweedy mention the protest? No. Did the Chicago Carpenters mobilize to support it? No.

Instead they were all mobilizing to support Hillary Clinton, who in the past was on the board of directors for WalMart, a company with a union busting history that needs no introduction. They were mobilizing to support a candidate, who is in bed with Wall Street, and the biggest corporations, who want nothing more than to control and crush the unions. Mr. Burns knows this, but chooses to completely ignore this little detail. That's a shame, he can do better than that. The real thing that we can take from this article is that the trade unions, Carpenters included are absolutely spineless when it comes to right-to-work. Their talk against it is nothing more than hot air--and that is a strategy for defeat. We need militant leadership. We need militant leadership to fight Trump, Hillary, the anti-union movement and the rest of corporate America NOW!

-Art Francisco