Feb 20, 2009

Senate Republicans rev up attack on workers

LANSING – Michigan Senate Republicans continued their anti-worker stance by approving Senate Resolution 16 on Thursday that asked the U.S. Congress to oppose the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).

The resolution was introduced by Sen. Mark Jansen, R-Gaines Twp., and co-sponsored by Senators Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland and John Pappageorge, R-Troy. The resolution was approved 20-16 along party lines.

Under current U.S. law, if more than 50 percent of employees certify their desire for representation, then a union can choose to form using card check procedures by signing a card and the employer would have to recognize the bargaining unit. However, currently the employer does not have to recognize the card check petition of the majority and can veto the majority and require a secret-ballot vote overseen by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and it does every single time. Under the proposed EFCA, an employer could only challenge a card check petition if fraud or illegal coercion was alleged. Currently, once the workers indicate they want a union, the employer calls for an election, and then the intimidation, threats of closure, threats of firing and actual firing begin.

The rise of unions coincided with the rise of the middle class, and the assault on the middle class has coincided with the attack on unions. Sen. Ray Basham, D-Taylor, said the fall in union membership has contributed to the widening gap between the rich and poor. Basham was a past Employee Support Services Representative for the United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 245 and on the bargaining committee for the local.

"As organized labor becomes less and less and people lose health care and a living wage, then again, we get the very rich and the very poor," Basham said. "A lot of countries have a very rich and a very poor population like Mexico, but when you do not allow employees to organize and peacefully assemble and to have a collective voice in a workplace, you are doing a disservice not only to those employees, but also to the middle-income folks as a group in this country."

Republicans have continued to cling to the false talking point that EFCA "does away with the secret ballot." The fact that it's not true has not stopped them from parroting it at every opportunity, and this is something we have seen with all GOP talking points. It's also ironic that now Republicans now care about the sanctity of elections.

"What on earth is Congress thinking when they take away a person’s right to vote," said Sen. Alan Cropsey, R-DeWitt. "Elections by a secret ballot allow everybody to have a say in their shop."

The simple fact is that what the EFCA does is put the power of who calls for a secret ballot in the hands of the employee not management. The workers can call for a secret ballot anytime, but the employer cannot do so to use the extra time to intimidate the workers.

Senate Minority Mike Prusi, D- Ishpeming, said he has seen plenty of intimidation on the part of employers. Prusi is a former iron ore miner who has spent plenty of time at the bargaining table. He was elected to three terms as President of Local Union 4950 of the United Steelworkers of America.

"On the question on whether or not there is coercion involved, I have seen much more coercion on the part of the employer than I ever have on the part of an organizing union," Prusi said. "The employers who spend, in some cases, hundreds of thousands, millions of dollars to keep the union from their workplace would be much better served if they were to work with their employees in a collective bargaining arrangement for the betterment of the employees and the betterment of the workplace."

Unions are the most democratic organization in the workplace, and workers elect their leaders and vote for the contract. It is also a bipartisan organization, a fact not lost on Sen. John Gleason, D-Flushing. Gleason was a skilled trade millwright for 30 years and is a member of Millwright's Local 1102 and UAW Local 598.

"A Republican President said it would be foolish; President Eisenhower said, “It would be foolish to not understand what unions have offered our country," Gleason said. "I agree with that Republican President that the unions have offered us a great deal of fairness."


ProudlyAnonymous said...

Once again you show your disdain for the democratic process. You want organizers to come it, tell any story they want, claim to have signed cards and use intimidation and peer pressure to get the signed cards.

Meanwhile, management is not allowed to tell its story.

It's a secret ballot. Employees can vote their choice without anyone knowing. But, no, in your usual patronizing way, you think the common man is too stupid, too fearful, or too gullible to make his own decisions..so your type will make the decision for him.

Their are strict laws against the type of intimidation tactics you describe. In my experience, management goes overboard not to violate the letter or spirit, for fear of an unfair labor practice.

Why are you so afraid of a secret ballot? Why are you such a foe of democracy?

By the way, Michigan is the most union-friendly state in the nation. It also has the worst econony. Don't you think workers have a right to that information? No, you probably don't. You are so much smarter than they are, so you can make their decisions for them.

Communications guru said...

This doesn’t take away any secret ballot. We can still have an election. The only difference is it’s the workers option to hold it, not the employer.

How do you have an election where one candidate gets to pick the date of the election, one candidate gets to go in the district and the other can’t even go in the district and one candidate gets a list of votes and the other doesn’t. This simply levels the playing field. Management still has unlimited access to the workers to lie and misrepresent the union, and organizers can only have access to them after working hours.

“Their (sic) are strict laws against the type of intimidation tactics you describe?” Are you that misinformed or just repeating Republican talking points? Who enforces that? Management can made threats with no consequences, and they routinely fire the main organizers. If they sue, maybe years from now they may get their jobs back, and they then find another reason to fire them later.

Michigan has the highest unemployment rate in the country because the auto industry is its number one employer, but it certainly does not have the worst economy.

ProudlyAnonymous said...

The elections get set by a government agency. The unions are allowed access to employees.

What do you mean by "one candidate gets a list of votes and the other doesn't." Even for you, that doesn't make sense. The elections are overseen by a government agency...or are you now saying that government is corrupt and incompetent?

I've gone through union elections. I've seen none of the management intimidation you talk about. Unlike you, I think workers are able to cast a ballot in their own best interests. It's beyond stupid even for you to say it's logical that the union gets to decide if their is an election. That's like saying George Bush got to decide if there would be a presidential election in 2008.

You really distrust democracy and you have little use for the working man and woman. You think they are too stupid and too cowardly to cast a secret ballot...so you are going to let union organizers make the decision for them.

You have a perverted sense of democracy.

Communications guru said...

Wrong again. Management gets to call the election and pick the date under current law. Why do you have such a big problem with allowing the workers to do that instead of management.

The unions are not allowed access to employees. They can try and hand out flyers as they zoom out the company parking lot, but the employer can call mandatory meetings, all day if they wish, during working hours where they are subject to lies, propaganda and threats.

I am saying that the employer knows everything about the employee; contact info, family info, income and you name it. The organizer only knows contact info if they sign a card.

Sorry if I doubt your claim that you have “gone through union elections.” You are the person who uses deception to post as different people. You are wrong again; I do think workers are “able to cast a ballot in their own best interests.” It’s you who does not believe that, and you believe only the employer knows what’s best for the workers. If the workers want an election, they can call for one. This just takes the power out of management’s hands and puts it in the worker’s hands. It levels the playing field.

I most certainly do trust democracy and have respect for working men and women. The minority of them sign a card saying they want a union. But before they can get one like a majority of them already voted for, the employer gets to call an election to make them prove, what I don’t know. What it really does is give the employer more time to fight the union, and they call in union busting teams and spend millions of dollars to fight the union.

You have a perverted sense of democracy.

ProudlyAnonymous said...

If management had sole discretion in setting an election, then why would they ever set one? Why wouldn't they pick a date 10 years down the road? Obviously, there is a deadline that has to be followed and the election has to be in line with government oversight. I've been through them; I know how it works.

Actually, I've been through them as both labor and management. As an employee, I've attended meetings where union organizers have promised employees they would get huge raises if they signed cards. I've also worked with people who signed cards because they didn't want to get hassled by fellow union-supporting employees. Then, according to them, they voted against the union. I don't know if they did or not...since it was a secret ballot.

I do know I've been at companies where supposedly 51 percent or more signed cards and then the election defeated the union. I've been at companies where the union vote prevailed as well.

Secret ballots work. It's part of the American tradition.

If companies intimidate and threaten and break the law, they should be prosecuted. But there is nothing wrong with a company explaining its position to its workforce. The employees are then free to vote in their best interests...by secret ballot.

Why do you so hate democracy?

Communications guru said...

That is correct, management has the discretion in setting an election.

According the National Labor Relations Act:
“An election may be held by agreement between the employer and the individual or labor organization claiming to represent the employees. In such an agreement the parties would state the time and place agreed on, the choices to be included on the ballot, and a method to determine who is eligible to vote. They would also authorize the NLRB Regional Director to conduct the election.
If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the Act authorizes the NLRB to order an election after a hearing.”

What that means is that after getting a majority of workers saying they want a union, management can then say they want an election, and if the workers disagree, too bad; one is held anyway. All the power is in the hands of management. Under the Employee Free Choice Act, the playing field is leveled somewhat, and the power to call an election rests with the workers. If the workers want a secret ballot, they can still petition the NLRB to hold one.

“If management had sole discretion in setting an election, then why would they ever set one?” Stop playing dumb. How many times have I explained this? After the majority of workers say they want to be represented, this is just one more roadblock to that happening, and management pulls out all the stops. The deadline is 30 days after the NLRB says an election will happen. Then the campaign begins, but management has unrestricted access to the voters. Organizers do not. Management has the leverage of firing people. Organizers do not.

Like I said before, please excuse me if I am skeptical of your union claims after you use deceit to post as other people.

I agree that “If companies intimidate and threaten and break the law, they should be prosecuted,” but they are not; especially under the Bush Labor Department. Even if they are, what penalties do they face? Whatever it is, it’s not nearly as harsh as the employee who just lost his livelihood.

The fact is, 1 in 5 union supporters will be illegally fired for union activity during an organizing campaign, according to the Center for Economic Policy Research report of January 2007 http://www.cepr.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=775&Itemid=8

More than 75 percent of companies hire consultants or union-busters to help them fight union organizing drives, according to a recent study of Chicago area NLRB representation elections by University of Illinois-Chicago professors Chirag Mehta and Nik Theodore.

More than 78 presort of companies force employees to attend one-on-one meetings with their own supervisors against the union, and 92 force employees to attend mandatory closed-door meetings against the union.

Why do you so hate democracy and workers?