Let’s End the World As We Know It

A few days ago Senate Minority Leader McConnell spoke at a press conference at the National Press Club and forecasted that “the Employee Free Choice Act will fundamentally harm America and Europeanize America.”   While on the campaign in October, a month after the economy suffered from a multi-organ system failure, Senator McCain said, “I think it’s [Employee Free Choice Act] a threat to one of the fundamentals of democracy.”

Well, they have a point.  Passing the Employee Free Choice Act would end the world as we know it.  Now let’s think about that for a moment.  Would that be so bad?  I don’t think the 1.1 million people who lost their jobs just over the past 2 months would think so.  

The Employee Free Choice Act is a pretty simple bill.  The legislation calls for the choice of unionization to be back in the hands of the workers.  It also helps make sure employees who do unionize get a contract with their employers within a year and the bill establishes actual penalties to employers who violate workers’ rights.  This doesn’t sound like earth shattering, world-ending legislation.  But 60 million Americans have indicated they would like to be in a union if given the opportunity.  Unionization challenges the power structure.  Unions create a checks and balances system in business.  There goes the company jet.

The world that Mitch McConnell, John McCain and the Chamber of Commerce are so desperate to protect is the world of ridiculously compensated executives who award themselves multi-million dollar bonuses after requiring bailout funds, raiding pension funds and firing thousands of their employees.  Is this the world you want to protect?  Has anything about Wall Street, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, or Lehman Brothers inspired your confidence?  Poor management and extreme greed going unchecked eventually had to be felt.  Workers, a thousand here and a thousand there have been the ones to bear the brunt of corporate failure and avarice.  Now we all feel it.  And we all are literally paying for it.  

It is time to build a new economy.  Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ slapped us right across the face.  Stimulate the economy all you want, but give people a say in their workplace, in their future.  It’s time to start a world as we deserve it.


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One response to “Let’s End the World As We Know It

  1. David H.

    I vividly remember my organizing days in the late 1980s/early 1990s trying to get frightened workers to sign authorization cards and I almost always heard the same thing. I’m paraphrasing, but it usually went something like this: “Kid, you seem like a nice guy but every time I signed one of those pieces of paper I got fired. The government didn’t do anything to help me. I can’t afford to sign that piece of paper and it isn’t because of the dues.” These weren’t just third shift office cleaners. Imagine a doctor with 20 years of experience saying the same thing. They did.

    I haven’t read the proposed bill in any detail but it seems fairly clear that the current system is so stacked against organizing that it has to be modified. There will certainly be compromises made in both houses or in conference committee. My greatest fear about the bill makes me sound like the President of the Chamber of Commerce. A provision in the bill, as I understand it, would mandate binding arbitration if a certified bargaining unit didn’t end up with a contract in 90 days. What is to stop a union from digging in, asking for the moon and the government appointing an arbitrator that knows little or nothing about the industry writing a contract for the parties?

    The public sector has a long history of binding arbitration to settle contracts but there are already established contracts, established patterns of compensation and a group of arbitrators who (typically in a Tripartite arrangement) fashion a contract that both parties can live with and that don’t end up bankrupting a state or municipality.

    In New York State, legislation has been introduced that would impose a wage package on a public employer if there were findings that the employer had committed an unfair labor practice (i.e. surface bargaining). If saying “no” to a demand amounts to surface bargaining, my fear is that we will end up with lots of organized employees with nowhere to work because companies will declare bankruptcy based on the imposed contracts.

    How do we avoid these pitfalls?

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