The Employee Free Choice Act will help level the playing field for workers trying to unionize. As it stands right now workers have to brave intimidation and psychological war games in the interim between when enough interest has been officially shown by workers to petition the NLRB for an election and the actual election. And the real truth is that both the employer and the union have a pretty good idea about how each individual worker will vote, regardless of the 'secret ballot.'
Currently employers hire fancy, big-bucks union-busting outfits like the Burke Group to consult with them about how to manage a campaign to keep the union out. This business of union-busting has become a multi-million dollar endeavor. And it's an endeavor that is in violation of the Wagner Act--the law that was passed in 1935 guaranteeing workers the right to organize.
The decision to unionize is strictly a worker's decision. The employer has no business trying to influence the workers and should have no say in what the workers decide. According to the National Labor Relations Act:
The Wagner Act of 1935
SEC. 7. Employees shall have the right of self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in concerted activities, for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.
SEC. 8. It shall be an unfair labor practice for an employer-
(1) To interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed in section 7.
Interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees in the exercise of their right of self-organizaiton is precisely and solely what union-busters do and what employers strive to do to keep a union out of the work place.
In 2004 the registered nurses at my hospital were in the middle of a union drive. Although my daddy was a Teamster and I believed that unions had done good in the past, I was unsure about the current need for a union. I spent several hours talking with union organizers getting my questions and concerns answered and finally decided that joining the California Nurses Association was the smartest thing any nurse could do. From that time on I started actively campaigning for voting in the union. Most mornings before work I would stand outside the front entrance to the hospital to hand out information to my fellow nurses.
Not long into the drive I found myself the subject of bag searches every time I entered the hospital. I got one of the guards to admit that they had been instructed to look for fliers and confiscate them if they found any in my bag.
We had to go to 'information' meetings at work on work time that were presented by someone who billed himself as an expert on the Labor Relations Act who would answer all our questions about unionizing. He was actually a shill for the union-busters. These captive meetings emphasized that we would be 'forced to pay union dues' and actually misinformed us telling us things like that if we voted in the union we would no longer be able to talk to or work things out with our managers; everything would have to be negotiated and in a contract. They said that everything we had would be up for negotiation--our salaries, our perques, the flexibility we had in the workplace--and that we might end up with less. They said that nobody would be able to get a raise until the contract was settled, another lie, and that that could take years---and here they were not lying, just giving away another union-busting technique: delay as long as possible the 1st contract. The union-busters were convincing to the bulk of my fellow nurses. No matter how often nurses that worked at union hospitals told them otherwise, my fellow RNs couldn't believe that a union would benefit them. They became afraid.
One morning not long before the election, I was outside the hospital before work handing out fliers just as I had done many times before. A supervisor came out and told me I was trespassing and that I'd have to leave. I refused. She called the Santa Ana police (yes this all happened in Orange County, California). The police said they had no problem with what I was doing so the supervisor insisted that she make a citizen's arrest. I was cited for trespassing and then allowed to go on into work! It was outrageous.
I thought my fellow RNs would be outraged that the administration would falsely arrest me. What actually happened was that the nurses became even more afraid. 'That union will get you arrested. That's trouble we don't need.'
Needless to say that although we had a majority of nurses wanting to join the union at the beginning of the drive, we lost on election day.
Did the employer interfere with our right to self-organize? I guaran-damn-tee you he did. Did anything happen to him? No.
My DailyKos screen name ludlow honors some brave miners who were trying to organize a union in Colorado in 1914. They lived in a company town in company housing. Got paid in company script to buy overpriced things at a company store. They got to gather at company churches and meeting halls where they could talk about anything except working conditions, trade unions, their own ethnic religions and politics.
On September 17, 1913 a strike of all coal miners was called. When these miners went out on strike the company, owned by John D. Rockefeller, threw them, wives, children and all out of their company housing. The union helped the miners set up tent cities close enough by the mines so they could picket and try to stop scabs from coming in to work in their stead. One of the largest of these tent cities was Ludlow.
On the morning of April 20, 1914, Pinkerton guards and Colorado's National Guard started firing into the tent city using a gattling gun and rifles. Though there had been shooting before such that families dug pits in their tents to get out of the line of fire, this assault was overpowering. At the end of the battle the guards set the tent city ablaze. The next day a telephone linesman going through the ruins discovered a pit that contained the charred, twisted bodies of eleven children and two women. 25 in all died.
This became known as the Ludlow Massacre. It outraged the country and turned sentiment against Rockefeller and the coal mining companies.
It is finally Honoring Time for these miners and their families; indeed for all who have tried to self-organize and been thwarted, bullied and murdered by union busters be they Pinkerton guards or Burke Group lawyers.
Senators Max Baucus, Michael Bennet, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson and Mark Pryor: the debt you owe these people is great.
DO NOT BETRAY THEM.
When the time comes you must vote to close debate so that this most important bill can come to a vote. Employee Free Choice Act must become the law of the land.
As Jonathan Tasini said,
The only way for our country to recover from a collapse in wages over the past three decades is to have a strong labor movement. By every measure, union workers do better than non-union workers.
This is the way to a better economy and to a strong middle class AND the way for wavering Senators to keep their seats.
UPDATE: Thanks to LeftistAddiction I need to add senators to the call-out list: Evan Bayh, Jeff Bingaman, Kent Conrad, Diane Feinstein, Herb Kohl, John Tester, Mark Udall, and Jim Webb.