Home     Writers     Op/Ed     Book Reviews     News     Bookstore     Photoshops     Submit     Search     Contact Us     Advertise  
  You are here: 

Wed

21

Jan

2009

The Coming Fight Over EFCA
Wednesday, 21 January 2009 23:26
by Sherwood Ross

It’s estimated 86,000 workers got fired trying to exercise their legal right to organize a union during the Bush years and signs are Corporate American will fight to keep things that way.

“We like driving the car,” Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott says, “and we’re not going to give the steering wheel to anybody but us.” (Or share-the-ride with their hires.)

Until now, the surest way to lose your job or get sent to vocational Siberia at outfits like Wal-Mart has been to urge your co-workers to organize. No matter the UN Declaration of Human Rights Article 23 states “Everyone has the right to form and join trade unions... ”

Scott and others are girding for a fight to stop the Employee Free Choice Act(EFCA) that would allow employees to unionize if a majority sign membership cards. It’s a much simpler method than staging company-wide elections by secret ballot.

EFCA would also stiffen penalties for intimidating or firing union supporters and impose arbitration when a firm won’t bargain. “Though union membership has slid to 12 percent in recent decades, the desire to unionize has grown” from 30% to 53% of nonunion workers since the mid-1980s, writes author Esther Kaplan in The Nation (Jan. 26).

Unionized workers, Kaplan notes, can earn nearly 30 percent more than nonunion toilers, plus they enjoy far better health and retirement benefits. Even nonunion workers cash in from unions: “when unions reach a high enough density in a particular industry, wages in nonunion shops tend to rise to meet the new standard,” Kaplan writes.

Candidate Obama backed EFCA:

“If a majority of workers want a union, they should get a union; it’s that simple,” he opined last April. “Let’s stand up to the business lobby.”


EFCA is a priority to level the workplace playing field. Kate Bronfenbrenner, the Cornell labor guru, says employers fire workers in one-fourth of organizing campaigns; threaten them with plant closings or outsourcing in half of campaigns; and threaten to fire them in meetings in two-thirds of campaigns.

“The fact that our labor law has no penalties for employer violations, no punitive damages, no financial penalties, that the worst thing that happens to employers when they commit egregious violations is a slap on the wrist, has emboldened employers to break the law at an extreme that is really astonishing,” The Nation quotes Bronfenbrenner as saying.

It’s so tough to organize, Kaplan points out, that unions avoid elections in favor of exerting public pressure on employers. In the past decade, election petitions plunged 41 percent.

When Communications Workers of America, for example, attempted to unionize Cingular, now AT&T, it signed 30,000 new members but lost three elections as a “result of antiunion threats from Comcast,” Kaplan writes. Under EFCA’s card check deal, the result likely would have a union victory.

No matter how much U.S. workers improved their productivity, during the Bush years their share of the profits pie shrank as CEO’s stuffed their own pay envelopes.

“Corporate profits have doubled since 2001, while real wages have flatlined and the number of workers earning poverty wages has risen to nearly a quarter of the workforce,” Kaplan writes.

Employers are fighting EFCA on grounds it takes away a workers’ right to the secret ballot. Actually, current law allows both the secret ballot and majority card sign-up, at the employers’ discretion. Under EFCA, employees would be the ones to choose.

The Chamber of Commerce says EFCA will devastate small employers and suppress economic growth. In fact, the more workers get paid, the more they spend, generating consumer demand for products and enriching employers.

Much as Americans have resented immigrants, each new wave brought to U.S. shores not only willing workers but consumers who had to buy everything starting from scratch. Southern employers began to wake up to a similar concept in the Sixties as African-Americans fought for better education and landed higher-paying jobs, generating demand for more goods and services. Prosperity followed. Ditto as women began demanding equal opportunities and pay.

EFCA likely will trigger the same result as the above examples, or when Henry Ford raised employees’ pay so they could buy the cars he manufactured.

Leveling the union-employer playing field will do more for the U.S. economy than any bank bailout. That’s because it’s a cure for poverty, not a fix for failure. Kaplan’s article is titled “Can Labor Revive The American Dream?” That’s a very good question.



(Sherwood Ross worked for the Chicago Daily News and formerly covered labor for a wire service. Disclosure: he has also worked as a public relations consultant for the Communications Workers of America. Reach him at sherwoodr1@yahoo.com)

More from this author:
Prevent Future Massacres by Curbing Bullying (8500 Hits)
by Sherwood Ross Society could reduce the number of senseless killings on campuses and in workplaces and shopping malls if it paid closer...
Bush Arms Dictators Around The World (8318 Hits)
by Sherwood Ross “In the last six years, Washington has stepped up its sales and transfers of high-technology weapons, military training, and...
CIA’S Overthrow of Iran in 1953 Reaps Bitter Harvest For America (7471 Hits)
by Sherwood Ross Iranians’ hatred of America dates back to the CIA’s violent 1953 overthrow of democratic Prime Minister Mohammed...
The Housing Bubble, Bailout, Good Jobs and Goodfellas (6588 Hits)
by Sherwood Ross The rush to bail out Wall Street is tragic. It’s as if the sun wouldn’t rise tomorrow unless Congress acted immediately....
The United States of England (9323 Hits)
by Sherwood Ross Why don’t we call America the United States of England? It may be a separate entity politically and geographically, but today...
Related Articles:
Coming to America: The Disappeared (5385 Hits)
Kissinger and The Mothers of the Disappeared in Argentina: America on the Brink of Horror. This blistering Buzzflash editorial deserves to be...
The Mushroom Cloud over the U.N. (7604 Hits)
The Bush administration has repeatedly rejected North Korea’s appeals for a “non-aggression” pact. Bush believes that he has the...
Endgame: The Lights Are Going Out All Over Baghdad (11205 Hits)
by Chris Floyd While the American election campaign thrashes toward the finish line with the usual spasms of witless diversion and...
The trial of Saddam Hussein and the coming trials of George W. Bush and Anthony Charles Lynton Blair (6401 Hits)
by Richard Marsden Sunday's announcement of the verdict in the trial of Saddam Hussein and his seven co-defendants was, of course, timed...
Third Parties Fight for American Democracy (8271 Hits)
by Joel S. Hirschhorn A great democracy offers citizens sharp political choices. That’s what gives political freedom meaning. With ...


Add this page to your favorite Social Bookmarking websites
Trackback(0)
Comments (0)add comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

adsense

Top