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Comment This legislation is critical (Score 2, Insightful) 715

I'm actually a community organizer who, until very recently, actually worked on the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). Having talked to literally thousands of average people day in and day out for 18, the vast majority of people given the chance would join a union (studies have backed this up- a full 86% of people would join a union given a chance).

Granted, as an organizer I was actually in management and sometimes the union contract got in the way of removing a problematic employee; but at the same time it serves as a deterent to unfair practices by management.

I'm seeing a lot of opposition to the removal of the secret ballot. Let me clarify. Under the present system people need to sign union cards- until you hit 50%+1 to say 'We'd like to vote on the issue of whether or not we have a union.' The company then knows exactly who has expressed interest in a union and usually target those folks with intimidation/firing/coersion up until the election... which is held on the employer's home turf.

Furthermore, EFCA also greatly increases the fines for union busting activities. Right now, someone is fired in America every few minutes for union activity; Wal-Mart has a whole corporate department dedicated to union busting. Violations usually cost a company about 5,000 bucks- and when you're Wal-Mart that's nothing; but under EFCA- those penalties rise to as much as $250,000 per incident. Something tells me Wal-Mart might actually play by the law now.

As for me, my dad was a union guy, I'm a professional, couple of advanced degrees, yet I worked in organizing and did management there. I've seen how a union paycheck allows people to live at a decent level (we weren't rich- but we didn't have to choose between getting the car fixed and only buying the store brand cookies rather than Chips Ahoy. And for me its a little personal. My dad worked at UPS- when I was in high school I developed a very severe case of scoliosis- without a major surgery I wouldn't be able to walk today. Because the union fought for better health benefits during the 1997 labor dispute with UPS I had the surgery (keeping track of the bills that came home during a 4 month recovery the sticker price is a little more than $300,000) and I can still walk.

Of course there is always that free market arguement. If any of the free-market apologetics have ever actually read Adam Smith- they'd notice he calls for a self-imposed limit to the hours and excesses of large business- that clearly hasn't happened. Also, he was writing in a time where labor relations played out in a small shop- sure it was easy to go to the cobbler across the street if the one you were working for was treating you poorly. These days (and especially with what has been going down lately) that is no longer possible. Companies have all the leverage to make the average employees life a living hell.

Also, while unions do protect crappy and lazy employees, studies have suggested the quality of work from union employees is much higher in union made products than in non-union ones. If anyone would like the stats and citations... I'll be happy to get them for you- just not in front of me right now.

Although I will probably be back in academia by the time EFCA passes (which I have little doubt it will) I am proud to have worked on this campaign- it is high time workers are treated as humans and not tools of excessive corporate profit.

I'm reminded of a T-shirt I saw once for one of the local unions, "United we bargain- alone we beg."

Full disclosure: I served as the Assistant Canvass Director of Working America, AFL-CIO, Cleveland from June 07- November 08.

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