The Labor Law Reform We Need--And How to Win It
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Despite fear-mongering by opponents, the Big Sky state’s robust economic growth has not been affected. Statutes in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands also prohibit termination without “good cause.”
Winning “just cause” legislation will certainly not be easy. But building a movement on a similar scale to the effort put behind EFCA would offer union activists an opportunity to champion an issue that would benefit all workers and also help union growth.
A “just cause” campaign could potentially engage working people at many levels. Short of state or federal legislation, local unions, central labor councils, and worker centers could seek to enforce a just cause standard through workers’ rights boards and community pressure.
Communities could declare certain areas “Just Cause Zones” and fight to enforce just cause as a community standard—like living wage laws, but potentially much wider. Political activists could use the proposed legislation as a litmus test for candidates. We could hold hearings on the need for just cause and lobby state legislatures.
If just cause campaigns succeed, workers will have more security to participate in organizing drives. Montana’s unionization rate reflects its mix of industries and history of militant struggles, but it’s hard not to notice that the state, at 14.6 percent, has a healthier percentage of union members than the national average. Neighboring Idaho has less than half the rate of unionized workers.
Even if campaigns for just cause do not succeed, they would be an opportunity to educate millions of not-yet-union workers about the concept (especially if the campaign used ballot referendums) and the increased job security it could bring to their lives.
By popularizing the just cause concept and raising expectations, more workers may respond by thinking, “If we can’t get this protection through the legislature, let’s get it by forming a union!”
Rand Wilson is organizing director for Service Employees Local 888 in Boston.