A Republican senator plans to introduce a constitutional amendment that would put the state’s restrictions on union activity, also known as right-to-work, into the state’s governing document.
Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, said Tuesday he believed the move, which would have to be approved by voters, would help the state compete with other states to land international firms.
“It is redundant to a degree, but the redundancy sends a message: We are serious about jobs and Alabama is open for business,” Dial said.
Alabama has been a right-to-work state since 1953. The law forbids employers from requiring employees to pay dues to a union in a unionized workplace, although workers covered under a collective bargaining agreement who do not belong to a union must generally pay an “agency fee” that covers the costs of negotiation, representation and lobbying. Similar laws are seen by supporters and opponents as weakening unions.
About 10 percent of Alabama’s workforce belongs to a union, making it the most unionized workforce in the South. Al Henley, president of the Alabama AFL-CIO, which represents about 50,000 workers in the state, called the amendment “unnecessary” and said right-to-work laws were holding down wages and benefits for workers in Alabama.
“Sen. Dial and his pro-business millionaire colleagues are on the verge of waking up a sleeping giant,” Henley said. “The entire middle class will wake up soon, both union and non union, and when they do, Sen. Dial and those who advocate for weakending the middle class will be the first to go.”
Dial said he was inspired by the recent activity in Michigan, where the state Legislature voted to make Michigan the 26th right-to-work state in the nation amid strong protests from organized labor. Dial also said that he had met recently with Korean business leaders, who, he said, stressed the importance of the laws in making location decisions.
The senator acknowledged the chances of the Legislature repealing the statute were slim. Putting the right-to-work law in the Constitution, he said, would be “a good way to assure everyone” of the state’s comittment to the policy.
– posted by Brian Lyman