Thursday, March 22, 2007

Organized Labor Must Fight Back Against 'Pro-Business' Agenda

by Kyle Michaelis
Following up on my earlier post, today's Omaha World-Herald published a great letter to the editor challenging all the cheerleading about Nebraska's newfound ranking in the Top 10 pro-business states:
According to the Pollina Corporate Real Estate Inc. rankings, Nebraska is now in the top 10 of pro-business states.

Pollina directs businesses to the cheapest places to operate. How sad it is to be ranked with Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota, Alabama and Georgia. Evidently, our business leaders and the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry believe low wages will attract businesses to our state.

This state needs high-paying jobs that will reduce the taxes for all residents. Readers should note that the Pollina study, which compares states based on 29 facts, excludes property taxes. How convenient.

I was among the labor leaders who supported the 2005 Nebraska Advantage Act, which offers a variety of tax credits, exemptions and refunds to encourage businesses to expand or locate in Nebraska. I was assured that the intent was to attract good jobs to Nebraska. It looks like we now need to makes some changes in that law.

Jim Sheard, Papillion
I'm glad Sheard was willing to take-on the prevailing, misguided notion that whatever benefits corporations must be a plus for Nebraska's economy. That just isn't the case, and low wages are a legitimate example of one place where the people's agenda is very, very different from the agenda of the business community.

The fact that the Nebraska Advantage Act is credited with our rising the ranks of pro-business states should be cause for suspicion. This seems to suggest the state's job incentives carry some imbalance in the corporations' favor - some angle that they're completely able and only to happy to exploit. Of course, the harm of these programs is no more firmly established than their supposed benefits, but there's already a reasonable inference to be made that Nebraska taxpayers are getting screwed.

And, more alarming than just the fact of Nebraska's pro-business ranking is the purpose to which it's being used in the Nebraska press. I'd previously mentioned Heineman using it to bolster his plans to end the estate tax on Nebraska's wealthiest citizens and to focus massive tax cuts on the top income bracket. But, as revealed in the subtext of the Lincoln Journal-Star's Tuesday coverage, that's only the beginning of how these numbers are being used against the interests of working families and organized labor:
Nebraska has jumped into the top 10 pro-businesss states....

Nebraska...does well because it is a right-to-work state, which means unions represent bargaining units of people who can't be required to join the union....
For those in the know about what's going on in the Nebraska Legislature, that right there is an interesting justification for Nebraska's pro-business ranking because it's being directly challenged by State Sen. Don Preister's LB57. This legislation would provide for Fair Share representation in which non-Union members would be expected to pay for some of the costs of a Union's collective bargaining efforts that they currently benefit from without contributing a dime.

The business community carefully selected its "Right-to-Work" terminology, but it's quite misleading. Rather than Fair Share vs. Right-to-Work, the real debate here is between Fair Share and a Free Ride.

LB57 breezed through Committee but has been held-up by the full Legislature. There's been some suggestion that it won't make it any further this session. But, this is a change organized labor has been seeking for a long time, and they can't stay quiet on it if it's to have any realistic chance at passage.

Heineman and business leaders are already using this conveniently-timed pro-business ranking to undermine LB57, and organized labor has to fight back. My suggestion - admit that LB57 might hurt our standing with corporations but only because it restores some much-needed balance and benefit to the working men and women who make Nebraska great.

That's a debate I want to see. That's a debate we can win.

In other words, let's tell Heineman, Pollina, and the Chamber of Commerce - on behalf of Nebraska's working families - to take this Top 10 ranking and shove it!

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