The Oregonian hosted a live chat this afternoon to discuss a proposed Oregon initiative. The so-called “Right to Work” measure is the same anti-worker attack efforts we’ve seen in Wisconsin and Indiana over the past few years, peddled by right-wing politicians and funded by the Koch brothers and other corporate interests. (Here in Oregon, the initiative has received funding from Loren Parks and has close ties to the Oregon Tea Party.)
The Oregonian‘s conversation came on the heels of their editorial on the proposed measure, wherein they wholeheartedly endorsed the principle even though “for all we know, the proposal contains a fatal flaw that will emerge with closer examination.”
The paper’s endorsement of the measure is not surprising, given the paper’s shift in years toward something closer to a pamphlet for the corporate lobby. Erik Lukens, the right-wing editorial page editor, hosted the chat.
You can read the full conversation here — be prepared to be amazed at the overwhelming opposition to Lukens and this bad idea — but we’ve gone ahead and pulled some highlights here:
1. Lukens deferred answering questions about actual impacts of the measure. This is likely because nearly all reports show that the alleged “Right to Work” measures do not help workers. When pressed on one veiled reference, he finally gave a searchable title (though still no link, as requested.) That’s probably because the article actually says, among other things: “Under right-to-work laws, workers reap fewer gains from economic growth… So business owners gain, and workers lose. One possible retort is that these states could simply set up new safety-net programs to compensate workers who are hurt. But that leads to another question: Without strong unions in place, who will push for these policies?”
2. Advocates of the measures appear to conveniently forget that public employees already are not required to join a union. Individuals may opt out of becoming a union member and instead only pay an amount that covers the cost of their contract negotiations. That means they don’t put any money into the union’s political or social activities (which are democratically voted on by members, by the way).
But Lukens in the live chat dismissed the existing “Fair Share” clause completely by basically fabricating what it is and isn’t.
12:09 Erik Lukens:
Should public employees be able to withhold fair share dues from unions, which may back causes and candidates they dislike?
12:09 Comment From Steve
Isn’t there already a federal law requiring the Union to allow so-called “Fair Share” opt-out of some dues used for political purposes?…
12:10 Erik Lukens:
Steve re. political purposes: This isn’t about political funding. It’s about fair share dues paid for representation – which can be substantial. However, I think the distinction you’re trying to make isn’t that easy …
12:11 Erik Lukens:
It might not matter to an employee who must pay fair share dues to a union he or she doesn’t agree with that the actual political money…
12:11 Erik Lukens:
is coming from someone else. It’s the same organization.
Get that? It’s about political funding, but it’s totally not about political funding.
3. Then there’s this non sequitur of answer in response to a reasonable question:
12:05 Comment From BottleRocket
Applying your logic, do you think it’s reasonable for a citizen to opt out of a portion of their taxes for something they don’t believe in? Like, say, a war.
No, I do not. However, it is responsible – and common – for people to seek changes to the tax code.
4. And one of the commenters posted a link to Scott’s article from earlier in the week: “A Peek into the Oregonian Publisher’s Union-Busting Past.”
The bottom line is this: Lukens and publisher N. Christian Anderson are clearly using the Oregonian to advance attacks on the middle class. Not only are they backing Wisconsin-style “right to work” attacks, but they’re using the paper (and today’s discussion) to try to malign public employees as Oregon’s #1 enemy.
No exaggeration. During the conversation, Lukens wrote: “If the Leg fails to make what voters consider meaningful reforms to the PERS system, people will recognize the influence of public employee unions and be far less likely to vote to support them.”
If voters were clamoring for cuts to retirement benefits for seniors, it’s news to me. If there was a clear mandate from voters last year, it was to put more money into schools and basic services by making sure that big corporations and the rich are paying their fair share. Even Mitt Romney talked about the need to cap tax deductions for the rich. So why aren’t Lukens and Anderson using the resources of the Oregonian to push for that?