Letters to the Editor — Nov. 24, 2017

Date Published: 
Nov. 24, 2017

Chamber offers thanks this holiday season

Editor:

“Gratitude can change common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”

— William Arthur Ward

In reflection of 2017 as we launch towards 2018, my heart cannot focus on any one thing except gratitude. Each season has brought something new: last winter the Chamber added a new full-time member of the team with Information Center Coordinator Susie Miller. Last spring, Sue Nilsson moved into the membership director role. In the summer, I was provided the opportunity to take the reins as executive director, and the fall brought on Amy Dalrymple as events manager and Katie Nevin as marketing and communications manager.

I’m reminded that, just as with the changing of the seasons, each year brings new scenery, new challenges and new aspirations. We love our community and continue to look for ways to be a resource, connector, advocate and partner.

At the Business After Hours last week, looking around at familiar faces and new ones, I left with a sense of joy about the countless opportunities presented daily. The energy is palpable and contagious!

As a new team, we look to approach this new year with new ideas, new partnerships and new strategies while building on the familiar things each season brings.

As you gather around the table, drive to the in-laws’ or begrudgingly watch football, take a moment to reflect on changes since the last Thanksgiving. What are your daily thanksgivings, joys and blessings?

I am grateful that common days can turn into brainstorms with business partners and staff members, that Business After Hours can inspire powerful connections, and that showing up to the Chamber every day for the last four years has been a huge blessing in my life, presenting opportunities I never could have dreamed.

Thank you! We appreciate you, and look forward to our future in collaboration.

Wishing you nothing but thanksgiving, joy and gratitude.

Lauren, Sue, Amy, Katie, Susie

Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce

Right-to-work? Maybe not

Editor:

A right-to-work (RTW) ordinance for Sussex County has been introduced by Councilman Rob Arlett. If a RTW law passes, Sussex County will be the first county in the Northeast/Mid-Atlantic areas to have such a law. If passed, unions and the state will likely file lawsuits.

The Council has already been assured by a spokesman from the Caesar Rodney Institute that two groups are prepared to pay all legal costs for any lawsuits filed, all the way up to the Supreme Court. This suggests to me that some very powerful organizations with deep pockets “have a dog in this race.”

In the opinion page of delawareonline dated Nov. 17, 2017, the Attorney General’s Office says that [Sussex County Council] does not have the legal authority under current Delaware law to enact a RTW ordinance. My research indicates that Delaware citizens and our elected representatives need to do some soul-searching before going down the RTW rabbit hole.

RTW laws have absolutely nothing to do with the right to work. RTW is the politically-correct phrase in the 21st century for union-busting. During the 19th and 20th centuries, union busters used chains, shovels, guns, pickaxes, fists and any other conveniently handy bone- and flesh-punishing tools. Today, the courts and well-heeled lawyers are the tools of choice.

After doing some research on RTW history, I have come away with the conviction that RTW legislation is a “solution” looking for a problem. RTW laws favor the few at the expense of the many. The 1947 passage of the Taft-Hartley Act passed by a Republican-controlled Congress was a law specifically designed to curb union power in America. It amended the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, which, in my view, did infringe on both employer and worker rights. Taft-Hartley was needed at that time and is still relevant now.

Taft-Hartley unequivocally says that: (1) if a business has signed a collective bargaining contract with a union, that business can still hire non-union members; (2) a worker who is non-union does not have to join the union to work in a unionized workplace; (3) the union must provide the non-union members in the workplace all the same benefits that accrue to union members including (a) defense equal to that which would be provided to members and (b) wages; and (4) since nonunion workers were guaranteed the same benefits as unionized workers, they would pay “agency fees,” which are essentially the same as union dues, less all portions of the union dues that are used for political activities and/or for costs incurred by the union related to organizing employees. So in other words, non-union members only have to pay for the costs the union incurs in collective-bargaining activities.

That fourth provision has been held up in a number of court cases. So workers already have the freedom to choose whether or not to belong to the union. They also cannot be coerced to pay for union political activities with which they disagree for any reason, including their faith tradition.

Early on, union bosses “conveniently” failed to tell non-union workers that they have the option of paying only for collective bargaining representation. The requirement to do so was firmly established in case law by the SCOTUS decision in favor of non-union workers in Communications Workers of America v. Beck.

The fourth provision does significantly reduce the coffers of every union. Therefore, it reduces the power that unions bring to the bargaining table on behalf of all workers, union and non-union alike. Because unions have traditionally been major donors to the Democratic Party, this regulation also reduces support of Democratic candidates in county, state and federal elections.

Taft-Hartley also created a loophole that would allow states to totally do away with the agency fees from non-union members if they see fit. And that is where the so-called RTW laws come into play.

For 45-50 years after Taft-Hartley became law, not many states passed RTW legislation. During that period, unions helped grow the economy, improved worker wages, insurance coverage and safety in the workplace, and helped grow a strong middle class. Union and management often went to the wire on contract negotiations, with gains and losses on both sides but without much blood loss.

Sometime in the mid- to late 1990s, things began to change. Advances in technology; increased ease of doing international business; federal laws that allow U.S. corporations to legally stash profits made in other countries free of federal taxes until they were brought back into the U.S. and increased greed both in businesses and unions were some of the big changes.

In a nation with a capitalistic economy and a democratic political system, a strong middle class is a stabilizing and equalizing force for progress. America’s middle class got hammered in this period.

Around 2012, states with Republican governors began passing RTW laws. Efforts by counties and large municipalities were not upheld by Circuit Courts of Appeal. In 2016, the 6th Circuit Court, which includes Kentucky, upheld a couple of Kentucky county appeals.

Opponents of unions believe they have another avenue by which to pass RTW laws in states that remain holdouts. Currently, 28 states have RTW laws. In addition to the push in Sussex County, there is one small county in New Mexico that is seeing RTW initiatives being introduced. Citizens in New Mexico have already defeated RTW legislation twice at the state level.

In the Guest Column of the Coastal Point, Nov. 17, 2017, edition, Mr. Arlett wrote, “How can Delaware increase its employment opportunities, economic vibrancy, and ensure its best days are ahead? We can begin this process by passing right-to-work legislation, which gives employees the freedom to choose whether or not to become a dues-paying union member.”

The Taft-Hartley Act rang that bell years ago. Employees at every workplace already [have] the freedom to choose whether or not to join a union.

Objective assessment of other claims made for RTW is muddled by widely divergent numbers and claims depending on whether you are looking at articles written by union supporters or non-supporters. I did find three sources that appear to be balanced in my view.

The first is a 2014 study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development. It was conducted in all 50 states. Using nine objective measurements of quality-of-life, states were ranked on a scale from best to worst. In the 10 states with the Best Quality of Life ranking, eight did not have RTW laws. In the 10 states with the Worst Quality of Life ranking, eight did have RTW laws. This is the exact opposite of what proponents of RTW laws argue.

The second reference is from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). (For the record, Media Bias/Fact Check lists the EPI as a left-of-center resource with a factual rating of HIGH.) In 2015, EPI updated its 2011 study comparing wages in states with or without RTW laws. The 2015 study confirmed findings of the 2011 study.

The conclusions: “No matter how you slice the data, wages in RTW states are lower, on average, than wages in non-RTW states.” It further concluded “these results do not just apply to union members, but to all employees in a state. Where unions are strong, compensation increases even for workers not covered by any union contract, as nonunion employers face competitive pressure to match union standards. Likewise when unions are weakened by RTW laws, all of a state’s workers feel the impact.” This also gives the lie to RTW arguments.

The third reference is the 2017 Annual Survey of Corporate Executives. This is the 31st annual survey done by Area Development magazine. Business leaders are asked what factors are most important to them in choosing a business location.

Of the 136 respondents in the 2017 survey, 37 percent were manufacturers; 9 percent were construction and trades, and 8 percent were distributing/warehousing companies. The remainder represented a multitude of employment fields. Number of employees ranged from 25 to more than 1,000.

In 2017, highway accessibility and infrastructure was the No. 1 factor — not surprising as the nation’s highways are not being built/maintained to meet population growth. Sussex County fails spectacularly on that factor.

Second in the ranking was a large pool of skilled labor. Strong unions; vocational and community-college programs are important to meeting this need. Again, Sussex County does not meet the criteria; although DelTech appears to be working hard to make our workforce more competitive.

The third position in this year’s rank was labor costs. This factor has taken its more usual position after hitting a low of No. 8 after the 2008 recession. Energy costs took the No. 8 position in 2017. As other factors become increasingly fixed or rise higher, this factor will likely become more critical to companies in their planning. If Sussex County and the state move aggressively to support clean energy and energy conservation programs, our competitive advantage in attracting new businesses will increase.

A RTW law would do absolutely nothing to make Sussex County more attractive to businesses.

Patricia Frey

Dagsboro

GOP reps weigh in on proposed state reg

Editor’s note: The following letter was addressed to Delaware Secretary of Education Susan Bunting and was sent to the Coastal Point for publication.

Editor:

I need to express my opposition to the regulations the Department of Education is proposing to change the state’s public education anti-discrimination policy regarding transgender students.

Delaware’s Gender Identity Nondiscrimination Act of 2013 forbids discrimination on the basis of gender identity in housing, employment, public works contracting, public accommodations and insurance. The law was not applied to Title 14, which covers public education.

The exclusion of public education from this statute was deliberate, allowing school districts to objectively weigh their transgender student policies, in consultation with the citizens to which they are directly accountable.

The regulations proposed by your agency are not authorized under the law and seek to usurp local control in favor of imposing a politically motivated ideological solution on all public schools.

Just as disturbing, the proposed rules contain no student age threshold and have no provision for safeguarding parental involvement. As structured, these rules would allow the youngest of students to make profound life decisions without the knowledge or input of their parents.

Additionally, the DOE has apparently not assessed the potential risk these rules would impose on the general student population and the administrative and liability issues it could create for local schools.

Some advocates of these rules have said they are needed to protect transgender students from harassment, but students are already shielded by existing anti-bullying policies that apply to any student subjected to disrespectful or abusive treatment.

In summary, the DOE’s proposed regulations on transgender students lack the required legal authority needed for promulgation; would seize policy control from local districts; would remove parents from the process; and potentially expose local schools to significant civil liability issues.

I urge your department to immediately withdraw the proposed regulations, instead issuing a list of non-binding suggestions that local districts can factor into their deliberations as they decide best how to deal with this issue.

State Reps. Danny Short, Harvey Kenton, Lyndon Yearick, Kevin Hensley, Rich Collins, Deborah Hudson, Ruth Briggs King, Charlie Postles, Dave Wilson, Ron Gray, Jeff Spiegelman, Bobby Outten, Joe Miro, Tim Dukes

Hattier responds to previous Point letter

Editor:

I am responding to a letter to the editor in the Nov. 17, 2017, edition of the Coastal Point.

Like the writer of the original letter, my heart aches for all of the people and family who suffered through the shooting in that Texas church. No one should ever have to be part of that.

Had the Air Force followed the law, that man’s name would have been on a list, and acquiring his weapon of choice would have been a lot more difficult. But the Air Force failed to follow existing law. Tragedy followed.

The writer makes the statement that the weapon used was a high-powered one. The so-called assault weapons, by their nature, use intermediate power cartridges. Compared to the main battle weapons of World War II, these cartridges have less range and overall less penetrating power than their modern so-called assault weapon caliber cousins.

As to high capacity, ask a World War II solider how fast they can jam an eight-round enbloc clip into an M1 Garand when they have to — pretty darn fast.

The writer makes the statement that the 2nd Amendment does not entitle anyone to own such weapons. At the time the 2nd Amendment was written, the most accurate and advanced soldier’s firearm was a weapon with a rifled barrel. The Founders did not single out and state you can’t have that type of rifled barrel.

Further, the only real test at the Supreme Court of what is allowed and what isn’t came in the 1939, with United States v. Miller. Miller had committed a crime using a sawed-off shotgun. The government made the point that, since it did not have a reasonable militia function, the 2nd Amendment did not cover it. By extension then, military weapons ownership was the intention of the 2nd Amendment.

So who is the militia? “I ask, sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people, except for a few public officials.” — George Mason, in Debates in Virginia Convention on Ratification of the Constitution, 1788. Tench Coxe wrote at the time “Their swords, and every other terrible implement of the soldier, are the birth-right of an American.” There are multiple quotes from the Founders echoing those sentiments.

And, lastly, the NRA has stood for proper training and use of firearms since it was first chartered in the 1870s. It stands for safe and proper use of firearms. To my knowledge, not one NRA member has committed any of these crimes. It is the non-member who does not appreciate our God-given rights that abuses this right.

None of the above takes away from the tragedy of the shooting or the dreadful loss of life. If the Air Force had obeyed the existing law, things may have been different. Mass killers use guns, trucks, airplanes and even the lowly pressure cooker. Much as we might like to, we can’t control people bent on terrorizing us. Outlawing a class of weapons based on their appearance won’t make a difference. That was tried years ago with no discernable results.

Donald G. Hattier

Ocean View

Reader points to causes of poverty

Editor:

The root cause of poverty is lack of opportunity, inadequate education, lack of job training, no child care, inadequate public transportation, to name a few. Along with race, gender and other forms of discrimination, lack of political power is a more fundamental cause of systemic poverty. Anti-union laws and court rulings that favor corporations cripple the ability of workers to earn a living wage.

The current proposed tax legislation is a prime example of people being conned and scammed with the promise of relief for the middle class. These legislators are not being honest or truthful about the details of this bill.

It is obscene to give tax relief to the wealthy when it has been proven that the trickle-down theory is ineffective. To cut 13 million people from the insurance rolls and to tax these same individuals making between $10,000 and $50,000 is a disgrace for a country of such great wealth. It is my hope that, in the end, the true truth will stand, when the world won’t.

Valerie Reeves

Ocean View