Wednesday, March 25, 2009

On Unions Going Green & the Employee Free Choice Act

I was recently interviewed by the Machinists News Network on why union members should get behind their employers’ efforts to go green:

Right now there’s a critical labor question facing Americans: Do you believe it should be easier for workers to organize into a union to fight for better working conditions? That’s the question at the heart of the Employee Free Choice Act, yet it’s completely ignored in most media discussion of the bill.

Instead, reporters skip right to the Republican talking points, bashing unions and claiming that any strengthening of workers’ ability to organize will be bad for everyone. No, really. The National Right to Work Committee sent out an email claiming anyone who supports the Employee Free Choice Act is selling out “employees, customers, stockholders, and fellow employers.” I’m surprised they didn’t include pets.

So what would the Employee Free Choice Act do? According to Wikipedia, it “would require the [National Labor Relations Board] to certify the union as the bargaining representative without directing an election if a majority of the bargaining unit employees signed cards; however, employees may still request a secret ballot election if 30% of employees petition for one. The EFCA would, according to Christopher Beam, ‘allow the employees—rather than the employer—to decide whether to hold a secret-ballot election.’”

As then-Senator Barack Obama said:
The current process for organizing a workplace denies too many workers the ability to do so. The Employee Free Choice Act offers to make binding an alternative process under which a majority of employees can sign up to join a union. Currently, employers can choose to accept--but are not bound by law to accept--the signed decision of a majority of workers. That choice should be left up to workers and workers alone.
According to the AFL-CIO:
People call the current National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election system a secret ballot election—but in fact it's not like any democratic election held anywhere else in our society. It's really a management-controlled election process because corporations have all the power. They control the information workers can receive and routinely poison the process by intimidating, harassing, coercing and even firing people who try to organize unions.
It’s a sad statement about how little we value workers’ ability to organize for a better deal that even minor process changes in union organization are met with such fierce, over-the-top resistance from big business and its allies on Capitol Hill.

A local organizer from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has asked for our campaign’s help to let our leaders know that we support the Employee Free Choice Act. We're hosting an event on Saturday at 1pm to write Senators Warner and Webb to urge them to support it. Hope you can join us!
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