Saturday, June 02, 2007

The right to join unions

One of the many reasons I refuse to shop at Wal-Mart is its union-busting activities. But, of course, Wal-Mart is not the only company engaged in such nefarious practices. Take a look at these excerpts from an article entitled "Freedom To Unionize":

It is no secret that the rise in the American middle class paralleled the rise in the number of American workers who joined unions. After all, union workers earn 30 percent more than workers without a union, and are much more likely to have healthcare and pensions. Increasing the number of people who are in unions is the surest way for today’s workers to reverse their fortunes and rebuild the American middle class.

Yet companies routinely violate workers’ basic right to form a union. Thirty percent of private sector employers fire pro-union workers, 50 percent threaten to close worksites if the workers choose to unionize, and 91 percent force employees to attend one-on-one meetings against the union, according to Kate Bronfenbrenner, a professor at Cornell University.

Unfortunately, these nasty methods of threat and coercion work for the employer. In more than 90 percent of union elections, a majority of workers indicated in writing that they wanted a union at the beginning of the process. However, unions won less than half of these elections, after months and years of employer intimidation. Does this sound like a system that is fair to workers?
Fortunately, there is legislation in Congress that will give workers the real freedom to join a union. With Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts as its lead sponsor, the Employee Free Choice Act will help remedy the fact that for decades corporations have fought to deny workers their right to unionize with a fervor and animus that is at best disdainful of workers’ rights, and at worst disappointingly un-American.

Workplace democracy means having the freedom to join a union and being able to exercise that right freely, without fear of repercussion or systematic intimidation.

Back "in the day", I have been a member of the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of Musicians. And in one of my music teaching jobs I was on the receiving end of union-busting behavior by management. I'm telling you, there's nothing scarier than getting that intimidating phone call when your job is on the line.

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