As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Defining The Problem

Too often Democrats let Republicans define the debate, even during this era of epic conservative decline. In the traditional media, the debate over the Employee Free Choice Act has consistently been about whether or not unions want to "eliminate the right to a secret ballot election" for workers.

Now of course, this isn't true. In fact, even under EFCA, if 30% of the workforce calls for a vote, they get a vote. But this is not the real problem in labor-management relations. That argument is about the implications of EFCA passing. In fact, the current circumstances of labor elections is the problem that needs to be solved by EFCA. I finally found the best and most coherent argument around that at the AFL-CIO site (h/t Ezra). The truth is that the system for labor elections, the vaunted "secret ballot," is broken.

Today, CEOs get contracts that protect their wages and benefits. But some deny their employees the same opportunity. Although U.S. and international laws are supposed to protect workers' freedom to belong to unions, employers routinely harass, intimidate, coerce and even fire workers struggling to gain a union so they can bargain for better lives. And U.S. labor law is powerless to stop them. Employees are on an uneven playing field from the first moment they begin exploring whether they want to form a union, and the will of the majority often is crushed by brutal management tactics.

Cornell University scholar Kate Bronfenbrenner studied hundreds of organizing campaigns and found that:

Ninety-two percent of private-sector employers, when faced with employees who want to join together in a union, force employees to attend closed-door meetings to hear anti-union propaganda; 80 percent require supervisors to attend training sessions on attacking unions; and 78 percent require that supervisors deliver anti-union messages to workers they oversee.

Seventy-five percent hire outside consultants to run anti-union campaigns, often based on mass psychology and distorting the law.

Half of employers threaten to shut down partially or totally if employees join together in a union.

In 25 percent of organizing campaigns, private-sector employers illegally fire workers because they want to form a union.
Even after workers successfully form a union, in one-third of the instances, employers do not negotiate a contract.

If labor elections were legitimate, there wouldn't be the need for legislation. Instead, think of it as your "secret ballot" Presidential election marred by: mandatory pro-McCain training sessions held across the country, mandatory meetings where "Obama is a Muslim" propaganda is foregrounded, threats to take away your job if you vote for Obama, and threats to close your workplace entirely if Obama wins. There is nothing democratic about these one-sided farces characterized by intimidation and harassment. That's why we need a new system for determining whether workers want to collectively bargain, and majority signup is simply the best practice out there.

This week, hundreds of volunteers with SEIU fanned out to McDonald's restaurants across the country and asked them if they were comfortable with their CEO making 770 times what they make, while they oppose common sense steps to join unions for their workers. As a result, the company backed off its opposition!

After more than 500 activists visited nearly 100 McDonald’s locations nation wide to talk with workers and consumers about McDonald’s opposition to Employee Free Choice, the company released a statement saying their reported position against the bill was a “misrepresentation” and that they “try not to take sides in political issues.” [...]

This victory is a great start for our campaign to restore the middle class and protect workers’ rights to speak out for better wages and benefits. Standing together, we can make Employee Free Choice a reality!

The Employee Free Choice Act does not restrict workers' rights, it affirms them. We must make it a reality in 2009.

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