Reporting for the progressive Maine blog Dirigo Blue, Gerald Weinand has discovered that a proposed “right to work” law in Maine mirrors similar proposals in several other states, like New Hampshire and Missouri. The legislation in Maine, LD788, sponsored by State Rep. Tom Winsor (R), would make Maine like other low-wage anti-labor states by weakening unions. Right to work laws typically allow workers to opt-out of union dues while benefiting from union contracts, a cycle that usually kills a labor union over time. But the assault on worker rights in Maine appears to be part of a larger attack coordinated by conservative front groups. Winsor’s bill contains phrases and language strikingly similar to other right to work proposals from Republicans across the country:
Maine’s anti-union bill LD788:
§ 653. Right to refrain
A person may not be required, as a condition of employment or continuation of employment, to:
1. Become a member. Become or remain a member of a labor organization;
2. Pay dues. Pay any dues, fees, assessments or other similar charges, however denominated, of any kind or amount to a labor organization; or
3. Pro rata portions. Pay to any charity or other 3rd party, in lieu of payments under subsection 2, any amount equivalent to or a pro rata portion of dues, fees, assessments or other charges required of members of a labor organization.
New Hampshire anti-union bill HB 474:
273-D:4 Freedom of Choice Guaranteed, Discrimination Prohibited. No person shall be required, as a condition of employment or continuation of employment:
I. To resign or refrain from voluntary membership in, voluntary affiliation with, or voluntary financial support of a labor organization;
II. To become or remain a member of a labor organization;
III. To pay any dues, fees, assessments, or other charges of any kind or amount to a labor organization;
IV. To pay any charity or other third party, in lieu of such payments, any amount equivalent to or a pro-rata portion of dues, fees, assessments, or other charges of a labor organization.
Missouri’s anti-union bill SB109:
Section A.290.590.2. No person shall be required as a condition or continuation of employment to:
(1) Become or refrain from becoming a member of a labor organization;
(2) Pay any dues, fees, assessments, or other similar charges however denominated of any kind or amount to a labor organization; or
(3) In lieu of the payments listed under subdivision (2) of this subsection, pay to any charity or other third party any amount equivalent to, or on a pro rata basis, any dues, fees, assessments, or other charges required of members of a labor organization.
In fact, the bills, excepting legaleese required to make the bill fit with each state’s laws, are nearly identical, down to unusual vocabulary and phrasing.
David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity group has beefed up its presence in Maine since the election of Gov. Paul LePage (R), a far-right tea party favorite. Meanwhile, Maine’s Republican Speaker of the House hired Trevor Bragdon, the former director of the Americans for Prosperity state chapter in Maine. And Trevor’s brother Tarren is the executive director of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a conservative state-based think tank with ties to several corporate donors, including Koch Industries. Both Americans for Prosperity and the Maine Heritage Policy Center appear to be laying the groundwork for the same type of anti-labor effort as Wisconsin’s led by Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI).
The conservative strategy for decimating the labor movement is being replicated with great speed — and little creativity. Each state, from Wisconsin, to Ohio, to Maine, and others across the country face a similar threat of phony Tea Party groups, business front organizations, and even nearly identical legislative proposals.