By Sam Kennedy
– Labor groups are planning to protest Saturday in front of beermaker D.G. Yuengling and Son in Pottsville.
At issue, according protest organizers, is owner Dick Yuengling Jr.’s support of so-called right-to-work laws.
“We find it incredibly ironic and insulting that Dick Yuengling, who became a billionaire largely because of the working class that has supported his family business for generations, now turns his back on us to side with those who are doing everything they can to do away with fair salaries, employment conditions and treatment,” Lehigh Valley Labor Council President Gregg Potter said in a news release.
Right-to-work laws are favored by many business leaders wanting to limit union influence. They make it more difficult for unions to organize, and they hurt union budgets because they allow individual workers to opt out of paying dues in workplaces with union representation.
Labor groups say the real point of such laws is to avoid collective bargaining and diminish employee rights.
In addition to the Lehigh Valley Labor Council, sponsors of the protest include the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, the Schuylkill County Building and Construction Trades Council and the Schuylkill County Labor Council.
“A smart businessman would just count the profits and leave his ideology at the door,” Potter said. “He would know that good jobs mean strong families and healthy communities — and that’s better for everyone’s bottom line.”
Yuengling representatives could not immediately be reached for comment.
This year for the first time, Dick Yuengling, Jr., the fifth-generation owner of the beermaker, made Forbes Magazine’s list of 400 wealthiest Americans. He came in at No. 371.
Forbes put the 70-year-old’s net worth at $1.4 billion, making him quite the anomaly in economically depressed Schuylkill County, where the median household income is $44,150, 15 percent below the state median, according to the U.S. Census.
Saturday’s march is planned to start at 10:30 a.m. between Third and Fourth streets and Mahantongo Street in Pottsville. Participants are supposed to march to the Schuylkill County Courthouse for a rally at 11.
Nationally, right-to-work proponents got a boost at the end of 2012 when Michigan’s Legislature passed right-to-work legislation in the state where the powerful United Auto Workers union got its start.
In June, the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce called for right-to-work legislation in Pennsylvania.
The Chamber’s support, however, was not expected to make much difference. While right-to-work bills are introduced on a regular basis, they rarely go anywhere.
Gov. Tom Corbett said late last year that the General Assembly doesn’t seem to have the will to pass such legislation, but that he would sign such a bill if it made it to his desk.