From the Thursday, May 08, 2014 issue of The Detroit News:
Organized labor has been under
attack for decades, with devastating results for the middle class.
have not kept up with inflation, even though American workers are the
world’s most productive.
Worse yet, without a strong labor
movement, both union and nonunion workers have no real avenue to compel
employers to provide decent wages, affordable health care and retirement
Workers may eventually be left at the mercy of corporations.
And that’s the way the American
Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) wants it.
ALEC, a shadowy
organization of corporate lobbyists and (overwhelmingly Republican)
lawmakers, purports to
exemplify “Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty.”
It stands for unfettered corporate
interference in the legislative process. It hosts all expenses-paid
conferences with lawmakers — usually at swank resorts where the media
and the average Joe and Jane are denied access — and crafts “model”
legislation to further the goals of corporate America.
Much of its
legislation is pushed by lawmakers in statehouses around the country,
Unsurprisingly, some of its largest contributors
are the Koch Brothers, oil, pharmaceutical and tobacco giants and many
other concerns that run roughshod over our democratic process.
According to ALEC Exposed, a group
that monitors ALEC’s outsized influence on our democracy, here is a
sample of the types of legislation it pushes:
“Right-to-work” bills that seek to
destroy unions’ ability to represent workers by preventing dues
collection for services such as grievance handling and collective
As unions decline, so does their ability to support
working-family friendly candidates.
A bipartisan alliance of Missouri
state representatives recently defeated ALEC’s right-to-work
legislation, after the same legislation was passed in Michigan and Indiana.
Tort “reform,” which makes it harder
for citizens to sue large corporations when injured by dangerous
Limits on damage awards do little to convince careless
corporations to keep consumer safety in mind.
Private prisons, which are one
reason for outrageously high incarceration rates in the United States.
Our nation has about 5 percent of the world’s population, but
one-quarter of the world’s prisoners, according to the International
Center for Prison Studies.
Americans are locked up for crimes that would
rarely warrant a prison sentence elsewhere. Empty cots interfere with
private prison profits.
Charter schools, destroying the
quality of public education everywhere, not just in the inner cities.
ALEC promotes the false narrative that America’s public schools are
failing and educators (read union teachers) are to blame.
Much like the
effort to starve unions of funding, ALEC and other public school
opponents seek to destroy public education by gradually defunding it. Investors in charter schools, rewarded with your tax dollars, are the
ALEC claims to be a 501(c)(3) exempt nonprofit.
It maintains it merely reimburses
public officials for their work on legislation —at high-end resorts
where they are free to bring the family along for a vacation. It claims
it isn’t lobbying, that its mission is “educational” in nature.
corporate lobbyists are also responsible for millions in campaign
donations to these lawmakers.
Americans are starting to catch on to ALEC.