By Don Johnson, Zion United Church of Christ, Gresham, OR
The Jobs With Justice breakfast on Wednesday, February 19, 2014 found the faith community, especially the United Church of Christ, very well represented. At least six UCC pastors were in attendance.
A large concern at the meeting was that there are currently 24 Right to Work states, and Oregon is being targeted to become the 25th. This effort is primarily promoted and funded by large corporations. One strategy is to use the words “choice” and “freedom” in their advertising. Corporations want to end organized labor so they can cut wages and benefits, which they claim are the reasons for higher prices. The real reason is probably greed. A posting on “Face Book” a few weeks ago by Global listed the pay ratio of CEOs vs. the average worker in various countries: Japan 11:1, Germany 12:1, France 15:1, Canada 20:1, UK 22:1, Mexico 47:1, USA 145:1. Many corporations pay their employees so poorly that they must rely on assistance to support and meet the medical needs of their families. Most corporations in the United States are doing quite well during these times, but the average worker is falling behind.
The states that have passed Right to Work legislation have generally followed with a reduction of the average worker’s salary and a decrease in benefits. Some will argue that they are working for a corporation that gives them a good salary and benefits. Did the corporation offer the workers these benefits, or did the organized labor unions work to get these conditions for the work force?
Oregon was set to have a Right to Work initiative on the November 2014 ballot, but last week it was announced that Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber had brokered a deal to take it off the ballot for this year. We will have to remain vigilant as this type of legislation is bound to show up again and the income gap continues to grow.