Thursday, March 22, 2007

labor games; don't let nova win!

the website that hosts our petition to nova president ray ferrero contain google-sponsored ads. this means that google picks up key words in the text of the petition and, through its magic and highly effective formula, attaches relevant ads on the side and top bars. the following two are the most prominent ads at the time of my writing:

1) Center for Union Facts -- Facts That Union Leader Don't Want You to Know

2) Nova Southeastern University -- Move your career forward with an accredited online degree!

these two ads have been very visible on the margins of our petition for the last two days, since i put the petition up, and i must say that i find it pleasantly ironic: while we ask that nova honor the union vote of its employees and give them fair wages and health care, something nova is not doing because it has chosen to hire a cheaper contractor (see ana menendez's recent article on this), nova is spending its money advertising on the margins of our petition! hey nova: how about you cut on the advertising and treat your janitors fairly?

and then of course there's the highly profitable and booming business of union busting, offered for a high price by so-called "labor relations consultants" or, in this case, political front organizations (see our story on the Center for Union Facts). businesses love them. for some reason that honestly escapes me (it really does), they prefer to spend their cash on union busting than on living wages for their poorest workers.

when i told a friend about nova's firings of the union leaders, she asked if it was legal. no, actually, it isn't. but large companies like nova have the resources to get away with it. here's an extract from an article published in the april 18, 2005 issue of the nation magazine:
Some 57 million nonunion workers in the United States say they would form a union tomorrow if given the chance, according to new poll conducted in February by Peter D. Hart and Associates. For many of them, especially women and people of color, having a union is often the difference between living in or out of poverty. Yet the truth is that a sophisticated and systematic effort to deny workers their basic freedom of association is rampant in this country.

Employers and antiunion consultants have effectively thwarted the intent and efficacy of the law that supposedly guarantees workers the freedom to form unions, a human right protected by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized by the US government thirteen years earlier in the National Labor Relations Act.

To put it in perspective: More than 20,000 US workers were fired or discriminated against for union activities, according to a National Labor Relations Board annual report. That amounts to a worker in this country being fired or discriminated against every twenty-six minutes for exercising the basic human right to form or join a union. Most employers infringe on workers' freedom to make their own decisions--routinely using legal and illegal tactics to thwart their efforts--according to Cornell University researcher Kate Bronfenbrenner. Fully one-quarter of private-sector employers illegally fire workers. And even after workers jump through all the hoops under current law and win recognition for their union, employers refuse to agree to initial collective bargaining contracts nearly half the time. This is a moral outrage.

Simply put: Our labor laws are so weak that employers routinely get away with breaking them, and when they are punished the penalties are insufficient to deter other unscrupulous employers from breaking the law. Right now the only penalty for most violations of the rights of workers to form unions is that the company must post a notice stating that it violated the law. Sometimes it takes several years before that happens, long after the effort to form a union has ended.

don't let nova win on this one. let our politicians and our community hear that you care. sign the online petition in support of the nova janitors!

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