Despite what Republicans tend to advertize ad nauseum, American workers are extremely productive, work longer hours for less wages, and are fortunate if they receive a week off work for a vacation. Workers do, however, have an advantage over indentured slaves and workers prior to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal that enacted most of what the Koch brothers, Chamber of Commerce, and Republicans claim are unnecessary “perks” labor does not deserve; lunch breaks, worker safety laws, overtime pay, and one day off each week. Republicans have opposed all of the New Deal worker provisions since their inception and with funding from the Koch brothers are getting closer to fulfilling their 80-year goal of gutting workplace laws.
The Koch brothers were not satisfied with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker imposing Act 10, the law that abolished collective bargaining, fair compensation, retirement, health insurance, and sick leave of public sector employees, or the so-called ‘right to work’ law he recently signed. Many Democrats expected Walker to eliminate the state’s ‘prevailing wage’ law requiring workers on public projects to be paid the established going rate for their labor. Instead of eliminating prevailing wage laws, Koch-Republicans’ decided to eliminate weekends and impose a ‘voluntary’ 7-day work week.
Abolishing the day-off law is another Koch machination to further cut Wisconsin workers’ pay, kill jobs, and increase profits for business. Republicans re-introduced a Koch-manufacturing industry law to eliminate weekends and impose 7-day work weeks as another step toward the Koch’s plan to eliminate all labor laws in the nation. Eliminating New Deal workplace protections is an 80-year goal they now have an unlimited funding machine to finally see to completion.
The latest Koch assault on workers’ rights is nearing fruition in Wisconsin with an anti-worker atrocity that eliminates weekends, or as the law’s sponsor likes to call it; a ‘paperwork reduction’ act. The legislation is a repeat of an attempt last year to wipe out weekends after Wisconsin’s largest business organization, the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, introduced a version that the Republican legislature failed to pass because they ran out of time to enact it before the end of the session. The new law will give factory and retail employers the right to keep workers on the job for 7 straight days, and more, if the workers are “pressured” into “voluntarily agreeing” to give up their day(s) off.
As Wisconsin law stands now, an employer has to petition the Department of Workforce Development for a waiver to suspend the ‘weekend off’ law if workers “choose” to work without a day off; if that is what the employer “requests.” As a law professor at Marquette University, Paul Secunda, said, the new law and the term “voluntary completely ignores the power dynamic in the workplace, where workers have a proverbial gun to their head and understand that if the boss demands they work 7 or more days without rest, they’ll be volunteering or else.” Eliminating a guaranteed weekend is just another step in Walker’s anti-worker crusade that includes eliminating collective bargaining rights and enacting the Koch (ALEC) written “right to work” law guaranteeing Draconian workplace conditions and lower pay.
The Koch surrogates who introduced the ‘abolish weekend’ law said the idea was brought to them by the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce organization after they discovered that as long as minimum wage requirements were met, employers could ‘request’ that workers ‘volunteer’ to work without a day off. As an aside, Scott Walker hates the idea of a minimum wage he thinks serves no useful purpose because his funding machine the Koch brothers hate it. The two Republicans who introduced the weekend abolition bill said they asked several businesses with employees about the law and were told that the workers wanted to work without any days off. Likely they were the same businesses that supported, and won, elimination of child labor laws in Wisconsin the Koch brothers believe are an abomination and unfair to business.
All of the anti-worker laws being enacted in Wisconsin are part and parcel of the Koch-Republican crusade to repeal all state and federal labor laws including minimum wage, overtime pay, weekends off, abolition of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and Workers’ Compensation protection for workers injured on the job. In Oklahoma, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Koch brothers legislative arm ALEC, succeeded in fulfilling one of the Koch’s wishes and repealed workers’ compensation in the state because the Kochs and the Chamber of Commerce claim that employers should not be penalized for imposing dangerous working conditions on their employees.
These attacks on labor are not reserved to Republican states, but that is where they originated thanks to the Koch-funded American Legislative Exchange Council. In many Republican-controlled states sick pay is under heavy assault with some even banning localities from passing a law requiring it. Last April in Oklahoma the governor, Mary Fallin, signed a law into effect banning cities from democratically voting to pass minimum wage increases, enact paid sick days and paid vacation requirements. Also last year at the national level, former House majority leader Eric Cantor pushed through federal legislation eliminating overtime pay that means tens-of-millions of hourly-wage workers would have had to work overtime during scheduled days off, during vacations, or after their regular shift ends without the benefit of extra pay. Republicans promoted the Draconian legislation as one of their storied “job creation bills.” Fortunately it was panned in the Democratically-controlled Senate; it will likely pass easily now that the Kochs bought control of the upper chamber for Republicans.
There is no end to the assault on American workers that goes far beyond just refusing to raise the minimum wage. The experiments being conducted in Wisconsin are gifts to the Koch brothers that Republicans in Congress will begin passing as part of their free market crusade to effectively wipe out the middle class. Since 2010, Republicans have ratcheted up their claim that eliminating the minimum wage will induce industry into a hiring frenzy, but with accompanying legislation eliminating overtime pay and weekends off, not only will job creation suffer drastically, the entire workforce will become little more than slave labor which is, after all, what the New Deal put an end to for 80 years. However, for 80 years Republicans longingly sought a means to eliminate New Deal workforce protections that Ronald Reagan claimed were Fascist. Now that the Koch brothers own Congress, the real fascists are a step closer to realizing their vision of an America with no workplace protections and an entire population of slave labor.