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Using the recent attacks against public employee unions as a case study, the following subsections show how model legislation has been written by the staffs of national corporate-funded lobbies and introduced in largely cookie-cutter fashion in multiple states across the country.
The most aggressive actions have been concentrated in a relatively narrow group of states that, though they did not necessarily face the most pressing fiscal problems, offered the combination of economic motive and political possibility to warrant the attention of the nation’s most powerful corporate lobbies. Scott Walker proposed sharply curtailing union rights in 2011, he presented his legislation as a response to the particular fiscal conditions facing Wisconsin.
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By far the most galvanizing and most widely reported legislative battle of the past two years was Wisconsin Gov.
Scott Walker’s “budget repair bill” that, in early 2011, largely eliminated collective bargaining rights for the state’s 175,000 public employees.1 Following this, in 20: The champions of anti-union legislation often portrayed themselves as the defenders of non-union workers—whom they characterized as hard-working private-sector taxpayers being forced to pick up the tab for public employees’ lavish pay and pensions.
Enforcement of wage and hour laws has long been strikingly lax.
When the federal minimum-wage law was first established in 1941, there was one federal workplace inspector for every 11,000 workers.
In the past two years, these efforts were most highly visible in Florida.
A recent study from Florida International University estimates that –90 million per year is stolen out of Florida workers’ paychecks.177 Yet since Florida’s legislature abolished the state’s Department of Labor in 2002, there are no state enforcement personnel to combat this problem.178 Further, the state attorney general has failed to bring a single case of wage theft in recent years.
Thus, the only means for seeking enforcement under current law is for employees to turn to the Legal Aid Society, which relies entirely on volunteer attorneys.179 In 2010, Miami-Dade County responded to this crisis by instituting the nation’s first broad municipal wage theft law.
Enforcement is carried out by the Department of Small Business Administration through a streamlined process similar to small claims courts; employers pay the costs of county hearings—thus enforcement is costless to taxpayers—and employees are entitled to recover up to double damages.
Finally, the bulk of the report details the corporate-backed agenda for non-union, private-sector workers as concerns the minimum wage, wage theft, child labor, overtime, misclassification of employees as independent contractors, sick leave, workplace safety standards, meal breaks, employment discrimination, and unemployment insurance.