Op Ed - Right to Work is really the right to squeeze the middle class

3/2/2015

Right to Work is really the right to squeeze the middle class

By Betty Patterson, President of NEA – New Mexico

As educators in New Mexico public schools, we are on the front lines of witnessing the struggles faced by our students and their families.

We see how the struggling state economy is hurting New Mexico’s working families. It’s on display every day in classrooms across the state. Now more than ever the parents of our students -- in fact, all of us -- need lawmakers to focus on real solutions to create jobs.

Sadly, this is not what they are getting from the Legislature, which this year is pushing a wrong-headed idea we believe will put even more families at risk.

It’s called “Right to Work” and though it sounds like it might be a good thing, in reality it’s nothing more than giving employers the right to further squeeze their workers even more than they already are.

Right to Work is an initiative being pushed by well-funded, out-of-state groups that are seeking to prevent workers from freely bargaining with their employers for their pay and benefits. These are the same right-wing groups that also support cutting the minimum wage, sending jobs overseas and allowing companies to move their headquarters overseas to avoid paying U.S. taxes.

So, why is Right to Work so wrong for New Mexico?

First, Right to Work strips away rights from workers by making it easier for companies to fire and reduce pay and benefits without recourse.

Second, Right to Work has shown to drive down wages in states where it has been implemented. Average wages in Right to Work states are $2.49-an-hour lower for minorities and $1.82-an-hour lower for Anglos than they are in states that allow workers to freely bargain for their rights and pay.

Third, Right to Work backers say it will create jobs and bring companies to New Mexico. This is not true.

A survey of corporate relocation experts for a national trade magazine showed Right to Work has never cracked the top 10 as a reason for a company to move.

In addition, 7 of the 10 states with the highest unemployment rates are Right to Work states.

Clearly, this isn’t about jobs. It’s more about taking away rights and powers from a workforce that is already hurting and in need of a boost.

We believe that boost could come in the form of state policymakers doing the real work that will result in an improved quality of life and more jobs in New Mexico.

That real work includes fully funding our public schools so that New Mexico teachers can turn out a competent workforce; and investing in growth industries like renewable energy, film and high-tech.

Instead, our lawmakers and Governor Martinez have chosen to use a highly suspect and flawed solution to our problems. Unfortunately for all of us who live here and love our state, this right to work bill will drive our state further into poverty and despair.

And as classroom teachers who see the results of these policies play out in real life, witnessing more New Mexicans struggle would be too much to bear.

So, contact the Legislature and tell them to stop putting the squeeze on New Mexico’s working people. Tell them to oppose Right to Work and devote their time to real solutions for our economic woes.

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