Click to go to the Subscriber Log In Page
Go to menu with buttons for all pages on BC
Click here to go to the Home Page
Est. April 5, 2002
June 22, 2017 - Issue 704

GOP Set to Reverse
Fair Elections for Workers
Under the NLRB


"They call the shortened time between the
filing for a union election and the election
itself 'ambush elections,' as if there were
no tradition of U.S. workers joining unions
and that federal law since President
Franklin D. Roosevelt has encouraged workers
to exercise their franchise and vote in union elections."

Just as corporate and billionaires’ money has perverted democracy in the U.S., so has it perverted the freedom of workers to form unions to protect themselves against the power of their management and floor bosses.

Senator Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate’s committee that rules on capital’s control over the working men and women of America, has introduced S.1350, the bill that would reverse an Obama era rule that would speed up the union recognition election process. The intent of the Obama Administration’s Labor Department rule was to bring union representation to a vote among a company’s workers more quickly than has become the norm. The delays in elections of recent decades have given corporations and their managements plenty of time to tip the scales against their workers and the union movement, convincing their workers that unions are not good for them.

Alexander and his Republican co-sponsors of the bill, as usual, claim that they are only giving the poor beleaguered corporations and their wealthy owners an even chance in any union election and giving the workers time to “weigh the issues” before they vote to join a union. So much concern for the welfare of the workers would be admirable, if it were not that it is just a ruse to move the sanctuary of a union contract away from workers who wield little (and diminishing) power in American workplaces of the 20th and 21st Centuries.

They call the shortened time between the filing for a union election and the election itself “ambush elections,” as if there were no tradition of U.S. workers joining unions and that federal law since President Franklin D. Roosevelt has encouraged workers to exercise their franchise and vote in union elections. Over the past 80 years, however, Corporate America at first slowly chipped away at workers’ rights to organize, then in recent decades, they have pulled all the stops to keep workers from forming unions.

In nearly all cases, the opponents of workers’ rights, including an army of politicians, have said that they are merely “protecting the rights of workers,” to ensure that they have “all of the facts” before they cast their votes for or against forming a union. In this case, though, Alexander and his senatorial comrades are at least claiming publicly that they are looking out for the welfare of the rich and powerful and ensuring that management gets its opportunity to turn the minds of its workers against unionization.

Opponents of workers and their unions always carefully parse their words, so they appear to be evenhanded and always looking out for their workers, whom they assume are ignorant if not stupid, and might be easily persuaded by careful propaganda, threats, and coercion. The ultimate threat is closure of the business or a move to a lower-wage part of the country (mostly southern states), or even to another country. In this era of instability of commerce in the U.S., when it is possible, even likely, that a factory or enterprise will move to a low-wage country, that is a potent threat and it usually brings their workers to heel.

In the past four decades, or so, when a company’s workers have talked with union organizers, there has been a time lapse of months or years between the original signing of union cards and the actual election. That time lapse has given the company the opportunity to cajole, entice, propagandize, and threaten the workers about what would happen if they voted for a union. And don’t think that this has not happened routinely over several generations. By and large, it has worked. After the election of Ronald Reagan to the presidency and his firing of 11,500 air traffic controllers, an entire industry grew out of the “work” of breaking unions and in what they began to term “union avoidance.”

There are union-busting law firms and free lancers without law degrees that have opened offices and consulted with top management faced with a union organizing campaign. Also, it has worked when a company fails to reach an agreement for a new contract, when it already has a union. It has been big bucks for the consultants, because corporations will go to any lengths to stop their workers from organizing or settling contracts on fair terms. In many cases, the corporations have spent more money trying to thwart the union workers than it would have been to settle the contract amicably (Historically, something like 96 percent of contracts have been settled without a strike).

The language of Alexander’s bill reflects the attitude of the propagandists in politics and the media. “Ambush elections” is a term that’s right up there with “union boss,” as if those who have been elected to lead unions are the ultimate “other.” It’s all in the attitude and “union boss” is pretty much always a pejorative. Corporate America’s war on workers has come to fruition in recent years, with “union density” in the private sector at an all-time low: About 6.4 percent of workers in private industry are in unions.

The advantage of union membership and work under a union contract does provide higher pay and better benefits, but often the workers don’t know that and, besides, that is just one aspect of unionization. Perhaps, the best part of being a union member and working under a contract is that the rights of individual workers are set out in black and white. Without a union contract, management has all the rights and workers are what’s called “at will” employees, which means that the boss can fire anyone anytime for any reason, or for no reason. A union changes all that.

Although laws have been passed to provide some of those rights, there is no substitute for a contract that is negotiated by the workers, sitting across from management’s negotiators as equals. No law can provide that sense of equity, equality, and fairness.

When corporations drag out the length of time for a union election, the chance that workers will get their union diminish or disappear. The so-called “ambush election” was the Obama Labor Department’s way of speeding up the process, so that the relentless hammering of workers by the consultants and secondary managers, to the point that they are afraid for their jobs and their livelihoods and reject the very idea of standing up for themselves and their rights by voting for the union. That’s how corporate managements, along with their friends in the justice system, have driven down union membership in the U.S. American workers desperately need to be educated in how the rights to which they are legally entitled have been abrogated. No democratic rights on the job means no democratic rights at the polls. And we wonder how we got to this state of affairs in this so-called greatest nation on earth? Columnist, John Funiciello, is a long-time former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of 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. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.




is published every Thursday
Executive Editor:
David A. Love, JD
Managing Editor:
Nancy Littlefield, MBA
Peter Gamble

Perry NoName: A Journal From A Federal Prison-book 1
Ferguson is America: Roots of Rebellion by Jamala Rogers