American Watch

US labor law currently permits a wide range of employer conduct that interferes with worker organizing. Enforcement delays are endemic, regularly denying aggrieved workers their right to an “effective remedy.” Sanctions for illegal conduct are too feeble to adequately discourage employer law breaking, breaching the international law requirement that penalties be “sufficiently dissuasive” to deter violations.

Unfair union election rules allow employers to engage in one-sided, aggressive anti-union campaigning while denying union advocates a similar chance to respond and banning union organizers from the workplace or even from distributing information on company property. If confronted with clear evidence of employee support for a union, employers can force a formal election and manipulate the often lengthy pre-election period to pound their anti-union drumbeat and, in many cases, violate US labor laws, confident that any penalties will be minimal and long delayed.

Workers who overcome these obstacles and successfully form a union may still be unable to conclude a collective agreement, in large part because weak US labor law provisions fail to meaningfully punish illegal employer bad-faith negotiating or to adequately define good-faith bargaining requirements.

Human Rights Watch: The Employee Free Choice Act, A Human Rights Imperative

Nothing spooks the U.S. managerial cadres more than unions. I have always been surprised, for example, at the money universities spend to prevent unionization or to fight an existing union. Administrators would cut their own salaries before they would stop paying a retainer to their union fighting law firm.

If you have never been around contract negotiations, or an organizing drive, you probably think this is just one of those lefty myths about the big bad Capital wolf waiting at our door. If you want a feel for the reality of the paranoia, though, you just have to do a quick search on the act. It’s very real.

What’s so interesting is that all of the fear assumes that people don’t really want unions. The law, then, won’t make it easier for people to make a decision about unions, it will make it easier for unions to manipulate people. Because, of course, no one in their right mind wants a union. I bet those law firms know better.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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