No solution is perfect, but the Troubled Assets Relief Program, extending unemployment benefits and relieving the unemployed from paying 65% of their COBRA costs, as well as some aspects of the stimulus package make sense to me and I support at least the attempt (the devil is always in the details – but that’s for another blog). What I vehemently disagree with are the pundits who are calling this President Obama’s ‘Hurricane Katrina’ moment. While it is extraordinary and lives are at stake, the comparison barely meets the mildly clever characterization. Unless Hurricane Katrina was the result of some impressively effective rain dance every citizen of New Orleans participated in, the comparison of the gross incompetence of the Bush Administration is inappropriate. This economic collapse is 100% man-made. It is a complicated web of deception and greed that can’t be pinned on one person, company or even one political party, as badly as we may want to string up Bernie Madoff and/or AIG, or the Republicans removed from power or Democrats who now bask in it, we are going to have to move forward without the satisfaction of justice for how we got here. That does not mean, however, it has to remain the same for the future.
Advocates of regulation don’t feel much superiority right now saying, “I told you so.” It is criminal that this much damage was inflicted on the American people with barely any laws being broken. And now we are paying for it. And I pay my taxes willingly. But we cannot tolerate taxation without representation. Corporate America once again wants the bailouts without the regulations. In this climate when it would be far more appropriate to keep one’s head down and supplicatingly request necessary funds to keep their business going, Corporate America and Wall Street are making the Employee Free Choice Act their public enemy number one. In fact, there is nothing to stop a corporation from using bailout money to fund the campaign to defeat the bill to give workers the choice to be represented by a union.
As the campaign for and against the Employee Free Choice Act heats up, the average citizen hears about ‘card check’ and big unions and/or ‘union bosses’. But here is the crux of the issue. When asked, over 60 million workers declared that they would like union representation if it were made available to them. The problem is that the process, under the law, to organize is so subverted, pro-union employees are harassed, threatened and fired without any consequence. Not surprisingly, elections under these oppressive conditions typically favor the company. Corporations invest millions of dollars to deny their workers the right to representation, sometimes more money is spent to keep a union out of the workplace than the cost a fair collective bargaining agreement.
The right to organize is not about the welfare of ‘big union bosses’ or fat cat CEOs. The right to organize is about you and me. In these times, especially in these times, I want to work with my fellow colleagues to have a voice in my workplace. I want to challenge CEOs and senior management raking in bonuses while I take pay cuts during bad times. I want a say in quality management, patient care, and/or resource allocation. Simply put, management doesn’t want to hear the voices of their employees even though they have even more a stake in the company’s success (employees don’t have multi-million dollar bonuses to rely on to get through the hard times).
Corporate America wants your tax dollars but not your voice. They want us to bail them out but continue to shrug off accountability. Maybe it was easier to organize when people could wrap their mind around a Kingdom squeezing 13 colonies for its benefit. King George has been replaced by Rick Berman and his Center for Union Facts, Home Depot, Starbucks, the Chamber of Commerce and many others (not to mention the Corporate Loyalists like Senators Specter, and, very sadly, several Democrats like Nelson, Lincoln, Pryor and Webb who are backing away from their promises and platforms).
The Employee Free Choice Act is not a declaration of war. But if passed, it would create a revolution for labor-employment relations in this country. Employees would be given the natural and inalienable rights they are entitled to — just as necessary and self-evident as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Maybe you’re still on the fence about the issue. But think about this — has any tyrant ever given up control over his subjects without a fight? Has the corporate world ever fought for anything but it’s own preservation and ability to maximize profit?
CEOs know exactly what they are fighting against. I’m trying to figure out how to make us understand what we need to be fighting for.