Idaho Reports; Right To Work
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Good evening. Since at least the 1950s bruising political battles over right to work legislation have been a political fixture in Idaho right to work laws of course prohibit the requirement that a worker belong to a union in order to work on a union job for organized labor keeping a right to work law off the books in Idaho has been a powerful political rallying cry twice Democratic governor John Evans has supported labor and vetoed right to work bills passed by the Republican controlled legislature. Some observers think that issue actually helped the Evans with his re-election bid in 1982 and hurt the Republican candidate that year feel bad. Will thanks to this week's election results right to work has emerged again as a major political issue in Idaho. Republicans now in raw numbers at least have enough votes in the legislature to override a right to work veto and to pass again and override the veto again on another bill fought by organized labor. Repeal of the state's prevailing wage law the so-called little Davis-Bacon at tonight with Tuesday's election results still fresh in mind. We'll sample some of how these labor issues might be or should be dealt with in the next session of the legislature. We'll also analyze what some see as the declining political clout of organized labor. Our first view of that tonight comes from organized labor and from the state president of the AFL CIO Jim Kearns occurrence. Is it a foregone conclusion that will have a right to work law in Idaho.
I don't believe so. No Mark I don't. I think the bill be introduced. I'm not sure that is going to pass. I think that we've been in this place before where we've had a Republican majority and or a prevailing majority on one side or the other I guess I should say in the legislature and we've got a Republican governor and it did not become law then.
You're talking about the 1950s 1960s. I really think that the Right to Work has been a political issue that has been tried have been exploited by both political parties. The Democrats have have supported our position primarily and used us as a rallying cry for them. Republicans have used it as a rallying point for for their supporters. And I think it will come out of that type of a situation now and I don't think it will be so political as it has been in the past.
What would you agree are. Different after Tuesday.
Oh certainly. Oh yes oh yes the odds are far greater that that bill will be introduced and the odds are greater that it could become law.
Well just in a few words and I promise you'll come back to the merits of these issues later. Is this like to work.
Well we consider a union busting bill. And I think you have to do is look around at other states too. Just substantiate that fact. If it dilutes the power of the representation that the worker wanted when they joined the union in the first place and it gives them an advantage to the bargaining part of the negotiations and grievances and other management labor decisions that have been made of course right to work supporters would come back and say that it's really nothing like that that it actually helps you be strong.
I don't know how that could happen and I don't want to go a long explanation I'll make it short that if you if you had a fire district and the people that are to be decided one in the majority have to to assess themselves a hundred dollars a year taxes to have that fire district by district would not last long if you left it open to those that wanted to pay could they but everybody got the the fire protection. Same way here. We guard us of whether or not you know what union the union is obligated and I think we're proud to represent all workers but we think that every worker should pay their fair share of them.
Running the local union will finally have Mr Kearns. You said a moment ago that this issue now because the politics are somewhat different would be decided more on its merits and less on the politics is that your strategy as you look ahead to the next legislature.
Well I think that's part of the strategy if you if you want to call it strategy I would. Talk to some friends of mine before the election and some political people that I respect. I think they expected that there would be less than 15 senators in the Idaho Senate 15 being the number 15 and the number Tuesday to sustain a veto to keep it in the political scene and these political friends who are not part of labor at all said that they thought that it would slip back into this discussion on the merits and get it out of politics. And I tend to agree with all of the action.
Thank you. We turn next to an Idaho Republican who has perhaps as much as any one experience with how right to work and labor issues in general can cut politically that Republican is Phil batt who was elected Tuesday as a member of the state senate Senator elect. That is a former lieutenant governor and a Republican candidate for governor in 1982.
Is this a cut and dried thing like that. I don't think you could classify it as an ad campaign. I'm reluctant participant rush into it because the media has had some good advice for us the last few days if we want to be told the Senate and that is that we should not immediately attack from a position of strength. The issues which will be before us that we must give them full discussion and certainly we should be statesman about it. I'm inclined to agree with that. I think that this type of discussion this early in the game will probably tend to polarize some already Flora's positions if I had to predict I would predict that we will have a right to work law. I think most of the or perhaps perhaps all of the 28 senators who are those who could override the governor have probably committed at one time or another to right to work. And some 65 percent of the public according to my post when I was running want to have a right to work law. So I would be very much surprised if we don't have one. However I am encouraged to hear Jim Curran say that it will be did decided on its merits. I think if that's the way it should be decided there's been far too much emotion involved in this discussion. In previous years of both from the union standpoint both in the right to work advocate standpoint those people who interfere with us from out of state even on the pro side I think have not contributed to a sound discussion of the issue and I hope that we have at this time.
So I would take it from your comment about not desiring to polarize the positions that you would not necessarily see in Tuesday's results of a mandate for the Republican Party to dive right into these.
Well I think that there is certainly a strong. Message from the voter that we should. Among other races past that have been part of the Republican agenda and its right to work. But I don't think that was a specific issue which carried Republicans and a lot of it was a fraud that's got a lot of what were other Republican issues I think particularly a freedom from government interference in their affairs. But I think this is part of our agenda. It should be discussed and discussed dispassionately on a factual basis. And I'm predicting at last after that that's it.
So if we talk about it on the merits of the issue that's that's fine for the proponents or the ople I think that's the way it is.
Senator I guess that's where I should go you know it will mean anything I'll tell you what if I were you Governor but how did this issue affect your your race if there was any and was a central part of my race.
I must say that I was involved in it more than I wanted to be. I became involved in and in a primary I was forced at that time to take a very strong position and I've always favored right to work I was not uncomfortable with it. But it became more of the central part of my campaign and I desired it to be toward the last when I was behind and the union people had made it very plain that they were gonna go all out to get me with all of the truth. I saw nothing to lose in exaggerating my emphasis on it at that time. But I'm sorry it was a central part of the campaign I think there are other issues as important or more important. And it played a big a bigger part and I wanted some of the people who were pro right to work at that time I think were damaging to my campaign. I think that the comic book was damaging.
I think there was some involvement from some of the people who favored right to work that time and effort just in order to was that is that the danger for Republicans that it becomes almost too big an issue that it will be my object in handling it that we'll make it part of our agenda.
That's not the central part of the agenda nor should it.
A pro right to work group called the Idaho employee Rights Campaign Committee became heavily involved in several state Senate races how heavily involved we don't know for sure since there won't be a public accounting of how that money was spent until next month. In one a county Senate race the Democratic candidate says he lost in part because of contributions from out of state right to work groups. Some of that money he says apparently went not directly to his opponent but to independent political committee an independent political committee headed in this county by George Bennett producer Bruce Recker talk today to the defeated Senate candidate Democrat Darrell salons.
I had no idea how much money was being spent by these forces until the recent sunshine Accords.
Frankly I was surprised that they had that kind of money to a poor in a small legislative race in Idaho. It's out of state money as a result of the ads that were taken out against me. It was apparent that this.
Out-of-state right to work group targeted me as an individual and was. Rather surprised to note that they also put roughly $700 to Mr. Bennett's committee that was allegedly composed of concerned County citizens. But I think it's quite dangerous to have. A vested interest in a fax campaign. That's not the best interest of the citizens they get we can resolve this right to work issue with our own people using our own resources. And as you know I cast a vote against the right to work as presented to 44 in the House of Representatives. And I felt at that time that it was wrong that it said it best he's passed away now but the right to work. He said that writers with bags full of money spreading your money around. And. I think he was correct.
At least one state Senate race where a right to work was an issue the Democratic candidate with support from organized labor was the victor. That was the white horse who won a state senate seat in southeastern Idaho. Senator elect Porche joins us tonight from Pocatello. Mr. Horse was the Labor vote a deciding factor in your race and was right to work the central issue.
Well the labor force was definitely a deciding factor in my race the bannock County a turnout to were in particular my opponent myself had both served in the ban and kind of turned out to win heavily towards me. Mark and I think I think labor are the right to work issue was was a major part of the campaign not necessarily the the main part but it was major in our in our district. The float 29 goes down into the very southeast part of the state which is heavily rural and probably pro very pro right to work County where I live this is probably pro right to work and so the bannock county vote where there is a predominance of of some labor unions and organized labor as was heavily towards me and I appreciate that and it's obvious while that I would take it puts you in something of a buy.
You got part of your district thinking definitely one way about this and the other part thinking very much the other way.
Well I think any district candidate that runs in seven counties is in a bind in trying to represent that diverse attitude that will be no different in my own campaign or my own service of representing these people and as I approach the topic of a right to work we're going to have to get my mind open and my ears open and listen to those concerns and pay attention. I approach right to work somewhat different than many Democrats as as a farmer in that I believe working people on the Idaho farm are a lot alike. And my problem with my own organizations that are called associations like Idaho Potato Growers PGI in the fact that they are not more like the working man in the fact that we are very weak at the organized bargaining table and and so my stand on right to work has come from that side of the angle as as a farmer that has crossed the table negotiating and know what little clout one can have if one is not organized.
Well you heard both of these gentlemen Mr. Kerns and Senator elect Batts say that they hope that this issue is decided on its merits away from politics. Is that possible no.
I think that's really healthy. And I hear through history that that issue's even been on the ballot and turned down by the entire state of Idaho on the ballot. I think it's totally healthy that finally we will approach that on the. On merit not necessary philosophy or emotion. Finally we can get her on the table and lay it out and let's do right.
So fine they would you give me a prediction will it be a big issue the big issue should be a big issue in the next session or just later.
I think if we can tell our story. And. We as Democrats and the working man and women of this state if we can tell our story as to where we stand I don't know if it'll be that big an issue. I think there's you take the emotion away from right to work which everyone in this state right now has or has the right to work if you can get that emotion out of it. I think you can draw that right on the table and possibly won't even be an issue at all.
Welcome back sir. Thank you. A final view of all this tonight comes from a Republican who has long been a right to work supporter. Representative Lyman Winchester is from Kuna native county. Mr. Winchester You are as I said have always been a supporter of the right to work and repeal laws of the Davis-Bacon Act Davis-Bacon Act as well on the merits of it.
Why little Davis-Bacon Act it's because of the critical shortage of school buildings in a fast growing community like you know in Meridian and it ministrations out there pointed out and brought the figures in and substantiated for example in the last building they constructed it there. Their figures show that it cost an extra million dollars to pay that salary to those workers and they have a monetary interest in reducing the cost of those buildings they're strapped and they need more buildings base. And right to work. Well I. I'm a card carrying a journeyman union man myself and I've always felt that. We had more from our unions if they had to compete if we had we had the right to choose whether we want to join the union or not it puts the Union on providing a service for us that would attract our interest rather than just taking it for granted I've always felt that the free enterprise the competitive nature of things in America was the way to go yet Mr Kearns says its union busting. Well I'll admit there's been some. In there many who have done so on rhetoric and knowing that they're going to eventually veto it in a way that were killed in that way but I think we can work out one that would not be union busting that would put the unions in a better position to show the membership why we would want to willingly join a union and what they can offer us and attract our interest and support rather than just demanding it like the present situation.
And so this should I take it from your comments be be an issue and properly should be an issue.
Well it'll be an issue I don't know. Someone will be there we don't have to take that leadership this time. I feel like your back that it shouldn't be shouldn't get top billing that there's a lot of important education and tax for all of the in the state that we have more importance to the citizens. Unfortunately this thing gets emotional and blown out of proportion and probably will be a big emotional issue. But I do think that it shouldn't get the attention that it does but it ought to be part of the agenda and treated.
Or say that the motions could be left out of it is that possible.
I don't think it can be left on this issue as much as I would hope that it could be as much as I would try to sit down and reason and work things out to the satisfaction of both the right to work people and union people so that we didn't really jeopardize the opportunity to provide services for those that want them. That I'm afraid if I'm seeing it in past years that the emotions are going to be there.
OK let me open this up and certainly Mr. Orszag let you get back in any time you want to to.
Mr. Kerns we invited a representative of the work committee to appear on this program and they declined telling producer Gary Richardson that we want to keep it low key for us political purposes we did our talking before the election and on election night. What does that what does that say about how the proponents of the right to work like that.
I don't know Mark I know they've got their own agenda. Bernie they don't want to put their own agenda out which I don't think bodes well for it. We're going to sit down and discuss the issue.
If they're going to hide in the secrecy cloak again and let me know how that that might contribute to keeping some of the emotional rhetoric out of the sky.
Well I don't I agree with Dean Winchester. I think we're in a discussion on its merits but I don't mean that there's not going to be emotion I think that we can't keep. There is going to be emotion I think part of the emotion is you might may come from from education of the public what right to work really is. I was interested in Phil's comments when he said that he thought that 65 percent of his district supported right to work. That's almost exactly as you said 65 percent. OK I'll take the state. That's almost exactly the same figure that in Missouri 178 the last time it was on the ballot that the right to workers said that 65 percent of the citizens of Missouri support right to work after a break Spencer I would say education process. How meetings and etc. It went to the ballot. And right to work went down 61 percent to 39 percent. It's an issue that is much more deep than just slogans and if we get into discussing really what right to work is people in the state will reject it like they rejected before I'm convinced of that and I would hope that we could discuss that with the legislature and not have to go through the expensive referendum.
Polling figure came from Lance Terrence who did all my going to trial falls on the most foremost firms in the country for you and I can't work. I fully agree with Mr Kearns that just because a person Center for something in a fog is no sign of old fart when it comes right down to the fact that both of them notoriously inaccurate. However there are there is a strong sentiment for right to work within the state. I don't agree that it is a union busting bill. I think that the states around us who have a right to work laws have done very well Union wise if they can appeal to their union members in a right kind of a fashion they can collect their dues Although many times not as high as if it were a right to work state and provide the services I think they can attract a responsible membership behind them. I also think that if I know that there are many firms which I consider right to work as one of the highest variables in their choice of a place to bring their business and I doze economy is in tough enough shape but I don't think we need any barriers here to read but it's coming.
Stay with your sure that's a pretty powerful argument that there's a lot that lots of businesses look at conservative state that wants to attract business but you're right a right to work state.
Well I somewhat agree with that I think that is one of the criteria that maybe business does look at I think business comes into any area to look at their bottom line and I suppose that with the Right to Work state they would have a larger bottom line Marc or Phil I think. However when you have a tax structure that we have that is basically based on the working man and small businessman and the farmer of the state paying the taxes that bring big business in that is largely decline in corporate taxation and in the state. That's also a bottom line that they look at. We've favored big business on our tax structure especially since 78 since I've been serving and I think our higher educational system is looked at as they view our state. I think just the general mode of the country right now is not for business to move but rather to enhance where they're at and so I don't know always right to work in Idaho is an issue whether or not they come in this state or not it's maybe one of their criteria but it's not the big one.
Just watch out. Well I think that Mr. Kerns mentioned here about the fire situation there and it's a good story that if we go further we've got some fire department problems right here in Boise area both in Garden City in the coal Callister where because of the union bargaining power and the upward thrust of those wages the administrators are just saying we can't afford to have that kind of a service anymore maybe we better look at putting it out on a contractor or doing the whole structure or having a fire department or something like that. So sometimes the service becomes too expensive because of the Union where it's not represent even not affordable to the taxpayer.
Mr. Kearns and Mark first well you know if we're going to talk specifically and in the whole thing wages was never the issue never has been and the commissioners will say that they just went through opened up all the bids from private firms to put it up to the city and the issue as far as as what the bottom line money is concerned the cheapest way you can bring fire protection to a cool coster is with the system we have now. It's more expensive to do it any other way. The commissioners have reached that conclusion. They still have got a dispute up there but it's not money. About the Garden City. Well as far as I know what I know about that issue is that they would like to open up a new station in Garden City. The union has absolutely no problem with that. There's money in the fund right now to put that that in the commissioners want some concessions on in the labor agreement to open up that new one and as far as I know the union is discussing it with their members to decide whether or not they want to do it and they just very well made me make those concessions.
Let me let me interrupt you. What other issues at the time that Phil brought you are also laws in that videotape say some pretty strong things about the influence of money on this issue. I would suggest that probably that's support right to work out money that opposes right to work that goes into these campaigns but it doesn't have a point that there's too much money being spent on this issue to influence the outcome.
Oh I think there's too much money being spent on all races that I would be interested in any type of reform to keep. Some control over PACs and labor facts and everybody to keep so much from so much money spent on campaigns. Certainly the amount of money that came in to promote Right to Work was balanced in my opinion by the contributions of national union on the other side to oppose fractal art. Certainly not a one way street about out-of-state money coming in but I don't particular proof of either side of it.
Mr Courage is just about right the labor market balances out right to work money when you total it all up.
No not according to the to the sunshine reports and I know what we spend because I help sign the checks and I don't report to the to the to the secretary of state which is accurate of where we raise our money where we spend it. The latest sunshine report had the right to workers outspending us to one and their money. About 65 percent of it. And we'll find out later at the end came from Utah.
Well that's very interesting because there was about $200000 contributed to John Edwards campaign from unions. Not all of those were outstanding. If I remember my breakdown some 150000 and 200000 were national unit. Their interest in Idaho was not particularly John Hammonds and south personally in my opinion it was become it was because Right to Work was a central issue.
I see the same thing. He didn't refuse any money for the National Education Association. And a lot of this that I don't know employee rights organization that money comes back from the Virginia headquarters just gathered up here in Idaho and in turn back so it isn't They're all out of St. Louis.
Let me ask the White Horse told one final thing we do pass a right to work bill through a Republican dominated legislature. Is there a chance of a backlash against Republicans for doing.
Well I think the story isn't told. I think there's a backlash to every type of legislation mark that is shoved down anyone's throat and labor doesn't forget or Nor does any other organized group of people farmers don't forget once one falls gets shoved down their throat. People remember and and it has to be done fairly if we're going to have a piece of legislation has to be done right Marc.
Well we appreciate your joining us tonight. Your best of luck in the next session. Do you get to a gesture that will be back tomorrow and Mark joins us.
Funding for Idol reports is provided by the Friends of four 10 and 12.
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting and by a grant from the laurel more coming.
This transcript is machine-generated and has not been corrected. It is likely there will be errors.
- Idaho Reports
- Right To Work
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- Idaho Public Television
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- Idaho Public Television (Boise, Idaho)
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- This episode of Idaho Reports looks at the recent election results and examines whether organized labor is losing political power in Idaho. The guest on this episode are: Jim Kerns who is with the AFL-CIO, Phil Batt a Republican Senator-Elect, Dwight Horsch a Democratic Senator-Elect, and Republican Representative Gene Winchester.
- Idaho Reports is a talk show featuring conversations with panels of experts about Idaho state politics.
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- Copyright 1984
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Director: Eisele, Ted
Executive Producer: McNeil, Jean
Guest: Kerns, Jim
Guest: Batt, Phil
Guest: Horsch, Dwight
Guest: Winchester, Gene
Host: Johnson, Marc
Interviewee: Sallaz, Daryl
Producer: Richardson, Gary
Producer: Reichert, Bruce
Producing Organization: Idaho Public Television
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Idaho Public Television
Identifier: 170.0 (Idaho PTV Tape #)
Format: 3/4 inch videotape
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- Chicago: “Idaho Reports; Right To Work,” 1984-01-01, Idaho Public Television, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 16, 2019, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_328-77sn09w0.
- MLA: “Idaho Reports; Right To Work.” 1984-01-01. Idaho Public Television, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 16, 2019. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_328-77sn09w0>.
- APA: Idaho Reports; Right To Work. Boston, MA: Idaho Public Television, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_328-77sn09w0