What is ALEC?

January 1, 2016

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(This article first appeared in the January-February 2016 issue of The American Postal Worker magazine.)

“ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, is not a lobby or a front group. It is much more powerful than that,” writes ALEC Exposed.

It’s an anti-union, anti-worker organization that seeks to cut the pensions and health care benefits of public-sector workers and dismantle collective bargaining rights. In secretive meetings, representatives of corporations and state legislators vote as equals to endorse “model bills” that would diminish workers’ rights and benefit corporations, the group notes.

“ALEC is a pay-to-play operation,” the organization says. “Corporations buy a seat and a vote on ‘task forces’ to advance their legislative wish lists.”

“In a period of unprecedented right-wing dominance in state legislative chambers, ALEC has continued to wreak havoc in states across the country,” writes Jessica Mason. In 2015, ALEC worked to block action on climate change, restrict local democracy, eliminate paid sick days, and attack labor unions, she says in a July 7, 2015, article, “Four Ways ALEC Tried to Ruin Your State This Year.”

Climate Change: ALEC’s corporate sponsors include major polluters such as Koch Industries, Exxon, Mobil, Peabody Energy, as well as other coal and oil industry companies. ALEC also frequently holds workshops that deny climate science.

After the Environmental Protection Agency limited carbon dioxide pollution from coal plants in 2014, ALEC began organizing a campaign against the new rules.

“First, ALEC organized legislators to press their state attorneys general to join litigation backed by the energy industry that challenges the regulations,” Mason notes. Then, in December 2014, an ALEC task force – whose private-sector chair is an executive at American Electric Power – approved a model bill that would establish new obstacles for implementing the rules. Bills reflecting the language in the model bill were proposed in more than a dozen states and enacted into law in West Virginia, she points out.

‘Preemption’ Bills: From increases in the minimum-wage to policies promoting affordable housing, some of the most progressive and far-reaching policy gains in recent years have taken place at the local level, Mason observes.

In response, “ALEC is aggressively pursuing a war on local democracy, pushing ‘preemption’ bills that block cities and counties from enacting ordinances that threaten corporate profits to promote the public good,” she writes.

ALEC has pushed bills like the “Living Wage Preemption Act,” that would block local governments from raising the minimum wage, Mason says.

Paid Sick Days: ALEC and special interest groups such as the National Restaurant Association have tried to eliminate local control over paid sick days. ALEC has promoted enactment of paid sick day preemption laws in Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and Alabama and is pushing the measures in other states, she notes.

In Michigan, an expansive anti-worker bill known as the “Death Star” was signed into law, Mason points out. It prevents local governments from requiring basic protections, including higher minimum wages, paid sick days, and fair scheduling.

Crushing Wages, Attacking Unions: ALEC has been fighting unions by promoting so-called “right to work” laws since at least 1979, Mason says. “It continues to push bills that reduce the political power and earnings of workers in order to increase corporate influence and profits.” The decline in wages corresponds with the decline in unionization, she points out.

ALEC’s right-to-work bills passed in Wisconsin in March, making it the 25th Right-to-Work state. And laws requiring that prevailing wages be paid on public contracting projects have come under attack by ALEC, Mason writes. “Several states passed laws weakening or limiting their prevailing wage standards in 2015, including West Virginia, Nevada, Tennessee, Ohio, Oklahoma,” she says.

ALEC is Public Enemy #1 and we must stand united to stop its assault on workers!

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