what we were told during the recent presidential election campaign
and Tuesday’s election alone brought a historic change to America—Barack
Obama is the president-elect and he promised more change than John
anyone who would bring change to the nation must first find all
the parts—the parts of the economy, the country’s manufacturing
base, and all the jobs that seem to have disappeared over the past
35 years (and with them, our wealth as a nation)—then put them all
together again. And, that’s just for starters.
that’s not to mention U.S. foreign policy, if there has been any
discernible policy for the past eight years…the wars, climate change,
natural disasters, and broken health care. It’s going to be a tall
order for the new president.
often, change is accompanied by fear—fear that the change will somehow
harm us, diminish our own personal security or upset long-held beliefs,
even if they’re not based on logic or common sense.
who have held sway over the U.S. economy and much of the government
for decades have their own fears about the change that’s coming.
What do they fear? You won’t find out on the nightly news or in
your daily newspaper. In the mass media, what used to be called
the “captains of industry” are portrayed as people who fear little
and take what they want, even if it isn’t put in such crude terms.
real opinion makers in America do their work without much fanfare
in places where the press is not invited. A few nights before the
election, Haley Barbour was featured on a cable news show to speculate
about the change to come. Barbour is governor of Mississippi and,
in the mid-1990s, was chairman of the Republican National Committee,
so he knows the deepest fears of the GOP and its right wing.
could have mentioned any of a hundred serious problems facing the
country, especially if Barack Obama was elected president, but he
only mentioned a couple.
of them was union organizing!
with New Orleans and the Gulf Coast still suffering from the destruction
of Katrina, with two wars that could go on indefinitely, with the
financial meltdown of the paper (money) shuffle, one of the things
he fears is the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA),
which would allow workers to organize into unions by card check.
is, if a simple majority of workers sign union membership cards—or
union authorization cards—then the National Labor Relations Board
(NLRB) would direct the employer to negotiate a contract with its
workers. The amendment to the current law also provides for imposition
of a contract, if the employer engages in surface bargaining (going
through the motions of collective bargaining without any intention
to reaching agreement).
America has suddenly become worried about the democratic rights
of American workers, that the EFCA would “deprive” workers of their
right to a secret ballot election in their workplace. Union-busting
consultants and lawyers have come out of the woodwork, expressing
their concern for working men and women, ready to fight against
this affront to American “democratic values.”
course, they ignore the history of three decades in American workplaces,
where employers used threats, coercion, promises, and, when necessary,
the firing of union supporters among their workers. Employers have
the workers for eight hours a day, during which time they are free
to intimidate those who might vote for a union. Workers fired for
organizing might get their jobs back years after the organizing
drive is over, when the organizing drive is defeated.
illegal activity is done without any real fear of punishment. The
small penalties are just written off as a cost of doing business,
and workers are denied their lawful democratic right to organize.
In this atmosphere, union organizing in America, with few exceptions,
has dwindled and the union movement has nearly been written off.
Obama has promised to support and sign the EFCA if it reaches his
desk and, with Democratic control of the Senate and the House, it
an era when fear-mongering nearly has become an art form, look for
the “union avoidance” consulting firms and lawyers to begin their
propaganda effort to thwart workers’ efforts to form unions of their
choice. They’ve had decades of experience and overwhelming success
at it. They’ve renewed their efforts with the prospect of EFCA.
their advertising and seminars aimed at corporations and employers,
the union busters depict all organizers as thugs and warn darkly
of people bearing clipboards, who knock on the doors of “your workers,”
forcing them to sign cards that will lead to collective bargaining
and an enforceable contract.
only want to enjoy their fair share of the nation’s economy, whatever
its condition at a given moment. More importantly, workers want
the right to protest unfair treatment by their employers and they
want safe and healthy workplaces, without the threat of firing or
discipline for being so bold.
Corporate America, that is something to be feared—a union contract
and dismissal of a worker only for cause. Why, it’s a sign of democratic
rights! Crank up the fear-mongering!
the GOP convention last summer, delegates and speakers made light
of organizers—community organizers. Rudy Giuliani bent over the
podium in laughter and derision when he formed the words “community
organizer,” in describing Barack Obama’s entry-level position in
the rough-and-tumble political atmosphere of Chicago’s South Side.
vice presidential candidate also had her fun with the idea of community
organizing as someone’s chosen work. She said it was a job that
had no responsibility, unlike her job as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska.
now, they’ll all crank up their fear-mongering about organizers,
because, probably above all other factors, the GOP was defeated
on Election Day by some of the best community organizing the country
has ever seen.
that’s what union organizers do. And that’s why the GOP and others
should be fearful of those lowly organizers, community or union.
The EFCA is right near the top of the list of Corporate America’s
all, what’s more fearsome than 130 million workers exercising their
democratic rights under the laws of their nation?
to post a comment about the election
and read what others are saying
on the BC Readers' Corner Blog
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.