Monday, January 12, 2009

My EFCA Opinion

There has been a lot of one-sided talk about EFCA. Maybe that's because my research is primarily on the very organizations that see it as a challenge or a threat.

On Friday, the American Meat Institute (AMI, and don't be fooled, they represent the companies, not the people who work on the floor) along with Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (CDW, an anti-union organization) sent a letter to Congress urging them to stamp out the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). With selected soundbytes from Republicans (why are we trusting them, again?) it could almost, maybe, make sense. According to CEOs and rich old white men who live in DC, EFCA will most certainly:

*Allow unions to sweep in and organize whoever they please, with or without workers' consent.
*Greatly reduce productivity, profits, margins, etc.
*Undercut the incredibly friendly efforts to reform labor law.
*Bring world demise.

Let's discuss, keeping in mind a few things. One, I have been a union organizer and researcher, which makes me part of the frontline, which makes me emotionally attached to the people that this bill would benefit. Two, that I no longer work in the labor movement, and that there are plenty of things wrong with it, things that I could not personally overcome, but that regardless of my workplace experience, unions are still statistically and anecdotally better for the worker than standing alone and unprotected.

*Allow unions to sweep in and organize whoever they please, with or without workers' consent.*The wording of the first argument exemplifies all that is wrong with the perception of unions in this country. Unions don't sweep in. Workers express concern. Workers and union organizers work together so that workers organize. In fact, the job of the union organizer is to be a resource for workers to use, the liaison between the information and history of the organization and the poultry worker who can't keep up with the line.
Secondly, EFCA would allow less time between workers organizing and employers intimidating them to vote no on the union for which they already signed a card authorizing representation.

Make no mistake. THIS HAPPENS. Employers have one-on-ones with union-friendly employees, they have mandatory meetings about all of the terrible things about unions, and they use personal relationships to manipulate employees into voting no. One of the great things about EFCA, and one of the most important things, is that it greatly reduces the employers ability to harass, manipulate and fire its workers over the union.

*Greatly reduce productivity, profits, margins, etc. * Union shops are statistically more productive than non-union shops. As far as profits and margins, since when did the worker benefit from those? Not in my lifetime. Next time you feel like doing some economic research, compare a worker's salary with that of a CEO. Maybe if rich old white men didn't bail with those golden parachutes, there would be more money for, you know, workers to have health insurance.

*Undercut the incredibly friendly efforts to reform labor law.* Oh, give me a break. With perhaps the exception of home healthcare workers, who are independently contracted with state governments, I have never, ever seen a "friendly" interaction between employers and unions. You mean rich old white men (seeing a pattern yet?) are trying to make it so that their incredibly diverse, nonwealthy men and women workers can get a leg up and get fair treatment? No, I don't think so. (This whole blog is making me want to write a rant on the contradictions of being a Republican... like pro-business and anti-universal health care which would dramatically cut the cost of hiring full-time staff. Alas, another day.)

*Bring world demise.* Really? Because I was pretty sure that the food crisis (see Cargill, Monsanto, ADM on that one), the economic crisis (Lehman Brothers, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae), the political corruption (Blagojevich, Ted Stevens, even Sarah Palin can be counted here) and the world errupting into war zones (Middle East, Eastern Europe, Latin America) were all adding to the eventual irrevocable end. Right?

So my next question I pose to the communications, organizing and strategic research departments of labor unions: WHAT ARE YOU SAYING ABOUT EFCA? Whatever it is, it needs to be clearer, more widespread, and louder.

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