Despite rising unemployment and a cratering economy, the GOP has placed a hold on the nomination of President Obama’s choice for Secretary of Labor, the pro-worker Hilda Solis. The issue at stake is the Employee Free Choice Act, which aims to give workers a level playing field by allowing workers to choose a majority sign-up approach, dubbed “card check” by anti-union flacks, for selecting a union — rather than keeping that option in the hands of employers.
But the original Wagner Act in the 1930s gave workers the right to use a majority sign-up process if they so choose, rather than the current election system that allows widespread intimidation by employers.
Studies of hundreds of organizing campaigns have found that a fifth of all pro-union activists are fired during a campaign, half of all employers threaten to shut down their plant and roughly 80% of employers hire unionbusting consultants. Employers are still free under the proposed Employee Free Choice Act to hold intimidating one-on-one “sweat” sessions to legally discourage workers from joining a union. And, as I found out while going undercover to a unionbusting seminar, it’s equally legal for employers to just lie about the dire consequences facing workers if they join a union, from closed plants to somehow losing seniority and benefits. That’s the system the Employee Free Choice Act was designed to reform, by increasing penalties for corporate lawbreaking, allowing employees to choose the majority sign-up approach but still retaining the employees’ rights to hold a secret-ballot NLRB election if they want.
Art Levine, Posted January 24, 2009
The inauguration of President Obama was breathtaking, there’s no doubt about it. We’ve done something unprescedented in the developed world– elected a member of a historically oppressed minority as president. President Morales, of course, who’s Indian, was elected a few years ago in Bolivia. Still, this is one of those turning points that happen only once in a lifetime.
On the other hand, unlike President Morales, President Obama may not be fully what at least some expected. He’s begun the process of shutting down the base at Guantanamo, for example, and the so-called secret CIA bases, but he wants the military to use an interrogation standard that may be just as bad as the old policy, which endorsed torture. His economic team, too, includes people who’ve demonstrated a freakish love of the market.
And Noam Chomsky, among others, can’t see much difference yet between Obama’s position and the Bush position in Gaza. All this seems very healthy to me. As Naomi Klein says, “free your base, and the rest will follow.” That’s why we need the Employee Free Choice Act. But we should give credit where credit is due– the Bush family planning policy had to end– but if progressive people don’t push back, nothing good will come of all of this.