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Ever wonder how come your burger at McDonalds and your socks at Wal-Mart are so cheap?  Why your 2x4 costs less at Home Depot than the local lumberyard?

Its because they don't have to play by the rules and can keep their labor costs dirt cheap by firing union supporters.  A local store with 20 or so workers where everyone knows each other can't keep a majority of employees from associating.  A union could be formed at the next softball game if work conditions got bad.

But at the big multinational corporations, employees who feel they aren't paid a living wage can be fired with $0 penalties.  A few years later an employee might win a suit to get lost wages, but only if they didn't earn money anywhere else.

Thats why McDonalds, Walmart, and the founder of HomeDepot are so aggressively against labor reform and adding penalties for violations of the National Labor Relations Act.  The latest from Mickey D's is here:
 No Surprise Here: McDonald's To Fight EFCA

In a Nov. 25 memo, McDonald’s USA President Don Thompson urged 2,400 franchisees to "contact your U.S. senators and representatives to oppose" the Employee Free Choice Act. [...]

Mr. Thompson warns franchisees of the "gravity of the issue," saying the legislation, "if enacted, will impact the McDonald’s system." Binding arbitration, he adds, would result in worker contracts "being written by government-appointed arbitrators who are not familiar with our business and don’t have long-term accountability for the decisions they make."

Now this isn't quite free burgers yet, but any burger you buy is subsidized by exploiting the lax penalties for violating U.S. Labor Law.  If fast food workers had the right to demand living wages, Mickey D's might have to pay them better to keep them from organizing.

In contrast to McDonald's statement, the Employee Free Choice Act restores the basic right of workers to organize.  It does this by increasing penalties for firing workers that support unionizing, preventing stonewalling by management or workers on contracts by sending in mediators if negotiations stall, and preventing management from invalidating a majority petition supporting employee representation by an elected individual or union.  Currently management can invalidate a card-check petition even if signed by 100% of employees.

Originally posted to try democracy on Wed Dec 10, 2008 at 01:17 PM PST.

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