Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Check out this piece by Mary Beth Maxwell, from American Rights at Work. The piece appears in Political Affairs.

U.S. Labor Law is Broken

If you ask most people in America why there are fewer members of unions, they have ready answers. They think it’s because of technology or because manufacturing jobs have left or it’s due to globalization and changes in the economy. They agree how important unions were in the old days, but wonder if maybe they just don’t fit anymore—maybe that’s why fewer workers have unions today. There are three answers to that question that most people in America don’t know—and need to know—that explain why so few workers have unions.

The first is that employer interference with workers making a choice about a union is completely off the charts. At American Rights at Work, we crunched the government’s own numbers from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and demonstrated that literally every 23 minutes in the United States—in the United States of America—someone is illegally discriminated against or fired for trying to exercise their rights at work. That’s really an outrage in a democracy. There is a level of lawlessness in the U.S. workplace in terms of firings and surveillance and intimidation that I think would stun most people if they knew about it. We commissioned a report from the University of Illinois at Chicago that found 30 percent of employers fire somebody illegally during organizing campaigns. Further, 49 percent of employers threatened to shut down the worksite if people were to vote for forming a union, and 82 percent of those employers actually hire high-priced union-busting consultants to coach them in how to defeat those campaigns.

Second, most people in America have no idea that union-busting is a massive, for-profit industry—it’s simply not “some workers want a union and some don’t.” Workers are up against hired guns, coaching managers and middle-managers and co-workers on how to defeat a union organizing campaign. [cont'd]

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