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."