Unionbusting Firms Profiting from Corporate America's Fear of Workers' Rights
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"I have been involved with training programs for associates on matters including union avoidance and unlawful harassment. It has been my opinion for many years that you put out the best videos on the subject of union avoidance." General Counsel, Labor and Employment Law, Golden Living
In contrast to the unionbusters and their corporate clients, workers and their allies see the benefit of unions for not only their own standard of living but the broader economy. At the hearing yesterday, Deborah Kelly explained how the Electrical Workers union (IBEW) she joined gave her the training needed to do dangerous electrical line repair work and then enabled her to get treatment for her thyroid cancer that she's since recovered from: "I know I'm never alone--my union provides a safety net and helps me ensure I have equal opportunity employment," she said. And Sharon Harrison, a Communications Workers of America member and call center employee in rural Virginia for ATT Mobility, saw an immediate difference after her then-non-union company, Cingular, merged with AT&T, which agreed to majority sign-up (labeled "card check" by opponents):
Because of that agreement, we weren't afraid anymore that management would retaliate against us for trying to form a union. When more than a majority of workers signed up for representation, all of us at AT&T Mobility were better for it. For workers, we were able to get better pay and benefits, lower health care costs, a grievance procedure and more opportunities. We know we're providing quality service and we know AT&T respects us. It's good for our employer, too. We're in a real partnership.
Even so, the introduction of the Employee Free Choice act by Rep. George Miller (D-CA) and Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), who chaired the Senate hearings, was the trigger for a new round of vicious attacks by business groups who are suddenly posing as champions of workers by repeating the myth that the bill takes away the secret ballot. (In fact, it doesn't change the right of workers to ask for a secret ballot election, but offers them the option of seeking majority sign-up through authorizing cards if they want to avoid the intimidation and corporate terror tactics unleashed before the current NLRB "secret ballot" voting sham; currently that decision to opt for majority sign-up is now granted to employers only.) Not surprisingly, the business lobbies' new campaign of supposedly standing up for workers' rights comes after opposing for decades everything from the minimum wage to health and safety regulations to government-aided health insurance for kids, SCHIP. How has their approach of lower taxes for the wealthy and big businesses, deregulation and unionbusting worked out? It fueled massive income inequality, stagnant real wages and our current economic debacle. Stephen Lerner of the SEIU exploded this big business hypocrisy on Chris Matthews' Hardball show last evening: The truth about the bill and the secret ballot myth was aptly summarized by Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley when co-sponsoring the bill:
"When workers are able to band together to improve their workplaces and wages, we strengthen the middle class. During this time of economic downturn, it is more important than ever that workers have the opportunity to earn a good wage and provide for their families," said Merkley. "The Employee Free Choice Act is a critical component of this effort." Currently, federal law allows employers to choose whether workers use a petition or election process to decide whether to form a union. The Employee Free Choice Act would allow the workers themselves to decide whether and how to organize, so they have a free and fair opportunity to make that decision. "Whether forming a union is in workers' best interests is a decision that should be made by workers, not management," said Merkley.
But despite all that, conservative Republicans and business groups are continuing their non-stop assault on workers rights and the Employee Free Choice Act in apocalyptic tones. At the hearing yesterday, the ranking Republican on the Senate employment subcommittee, Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) proclaimed: