handwriting was on the wall a few weeks ago when Solidarity America
reported that President Obama’s new labor secretary, Hilda Solis,
delivered the graduation speech at the National
and didn’t even mention the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).
a handful of so-called moderate Democrats have broken ranks with
the rest of their party in Congress and decided that they need to
remove the “card-check” organizing from the bill. If
that is done, they would presumably vote for the bill that will
make it somewhat easier for workers to organize unions in America.
moderates apparently have swallowed the line of Corporate America
that workers will be deprived of their God-given right to vote on
whether to have a union in their workplace (and by the way earn
as much as 30 percent more in wages and benefits and pensions than
their non-union counterparts).
devils that they are, the lobbyists for the biggest companies and
even some smaller ones, marching in lock step through the halls
of Congress, have convinced lawmakers that EFCA’s card-check language
would deprive workers of the democratic right to vote on whether
to have a union.
course, this presumes that 1) employers really care about their
workers’ rights in any sphere of American life and that 2) the act
of voting, in itself, is a sign that democracy is alive and well
in the land.
ample evidence that neither is true. Americans who fight to pay
the lowest wage possible and provide no benefits and who fight even
the promise of health care for all certainly do not care about those
who work for them. And, we’ve seen evidence through history that
voting for a supreme leader is not necessarily a sign that democracy
is alive and well in the country where the voting takes place for,
often, there is only one candidate - and that’s who you get.
it is with union elections in the workplace. The boss has access
to the workers for eight or 10 hours a day and is free to propagandize,
cajole, coerce, and threaten all of the workers to convince them
to vote against the union. Occasionally, they find it necessary
to fire a few of the leaders, but there’s little or no penalty to
pay when they do so. They consider any fine (which is usually small)
a cost of doing business. The union has to talk to the workers outside
the workplace, which is difficult, at best.
there is a workplace vote, usually conducted by the National Labor
Relations Board, but as election observers note in some one-party
countries, the election is “tainted.” That’s to say the least.
card-check provision in EFCA would provide an option - an alternative
to a workplace vote - that, if 50 percent plus one of the workers
sign union cards, the union is recognized and the collective bargaining
process must begin.
the provision that would be removed by the moderate Democrats (who
are holding what is essentially a Republican position on EFCA) and
it thus removes what is the most important part of the bill. Still
in the bill would be the requirement that the two sides reach an
agreement on a first contract or an arbitrator steps in and sets
don’t like that provision either, but eliminating card-check organizing
is likely the key provision of their attack on the bill. They’ll
work on minimizing the effects of the rest of the bill at some future
time, as they always do.
to a report in the New York Times this week, the GOP seems
to have won the biggest battle in the EFCA fight, bolstered by the
wavering Democrats in the middle.
far, they’ve won the first round on the stimulus money, most of
it having gone to the country’s giant corporations (which they haven’t
shared with local communities to the extent that was intended),
they are winning on defeating any semblance of single-payer universal
health care (substituting a so-called public option plan), and,
now, they are ready to surgically remove the heart of EFCA.
piles of money spread around the halls of Congress and the revolving
door between the houses of Congress and Corporate America are paying
off again. The very people who are expected to vote on laws to benefit
the people are the ones who jump ship and show up on the corporate
payrolls in the next cycle.
the corporate executive is the next one representing his or her
district in the House or state in the U.S. Senate. With a virtual
merry-go-round of representatives, congressional staff, and corporate
executives, the people are usually left, without tickets, to watch
the thing go around and around.
way things are, democracy has little to do with anything. The ruling
class pays the money, politicians do their bidding, and the people
become bystanders. That’s why it’s so shocking to hear from the
right wing politicians and pundits that they are very concerned
about the “democratic rights” of workers.
let us be clear about legislation like EFCA. If it were passed as
it was proposed, American workers would be the beneficiaries
- that would be more than 120 million men and women. Labor law such
as this is not just a benefit to unionized workers, but a benefit
to all workers.
Corporate America, the prospect of better pay and benefits for the
88 percent of workers who are not members of a union is like viewing
a coming tidal wave from the shore. It spells disaster, tragedy,
and personal failure. So, they fight it, as if to the death.
struggle between capital and labor continues in the Land of the
Free. The disparity in wealth between the top 5 percent and the
rest of us continues to plague our economy and the repair job -
stimulus - has not touched the people and their communities. The
unemployment rate is about 10 percent.
of the remedies is to empower workers. The presence of unions in
just one-third of America’s workplaces would raise the standards
of all workers. That is the one thing that would provide true economic
recovery and spread the wealth more evenly. But that is the essence
of the struggle, and the benefits of a free society won’t be enjoyed
by the majority until there is equality in both politics and the
won’t be much equality in America’s
economic or political life until there is equality on the job. Without
unionization, that will not happen. And that’s why defeat of the
key provision of EFCA is such a tragedy for American workers.
BlackCommentator.com Columnist, John Funiciello, is a labor organizer and former union organizer.
His union work started when he became a local president of The Newspaper
Guild in the early 1970s. He was a reporter for 14 years for newspapers
in New York State. In addition to labor work,
he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the
land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land
developers. Click here
to contact Mr. Funiciello.