Monday, March 3, 2014

The story behind those communist China "right to work" billboards in Kansas City

Posted By on Mon, Mar 3, 2014 at 12:32 PM

click to enlarge This billboard went up not long ago along Interstate 70
  • This billboard went up not long ago along Interstate 70
If you can't beat their hyperventilating rhetoric, use it against them.

Terry Akins, a labor executive with International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers No. 124 in Kansas City, had this thought in mind when he brandished a map of China with an accompanying hammer and sickle upon a billboard along Interstate 70.

Drivers heading east from downtown Kansas City on I-70 near the Van Brunt exit have spotted the billboard showing China's political boundaries draped in red, adorned with the universal symbol for communism between a line reading "Communist China: A right to work state since 1921."

Conservative commentators relish invoking communism and socialism to besmirch new government programs or regulations they oppose, even if the comparison to communism makes little or no sense.

Akins devised the artwork for the billboard to hurl the communism name-calling back upon conservatives looking to weaken labor unions in Missouri. So far, Akins is on the hook with his personal money for the provocative denouncement. (He's trying to get other unions to chip in funds for the publicity campaign.)

Right to work laws prohibit unionized workplaces from automatically withdrawing union dues from employee paychecks or otherwise making employment conditional on union membership.

"The right to work laws are equivalent to legislation coming out that says (lawyers) don't need to pay dues to the bar," Akins says.

Unions stridently oppose right to work laws, generally because nonunion employees could realize the benefits of collective bargaining without having to pay dues. Unions call these people "freeloaders," a term that some conservatives reserve for entitlement recipients. They also see weakened private labor unions as a means for businesses to drive down employee wages.

Missouri seemingly every year tries to pass right to work legislation, which is on the books in Kansas. Gov. Jay Nixon has made clear his opposition to right to work laws. Mindful of Nixon's veto power, Missouri lawmakers are trying to pass two right to work measures that would skip the governor's desk and instead go to a statewide vote if they pass the Legislature. Both right to work bills have cleared the House but are not scheduled for Senate hearings.

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