May 31, 2006
RESTORING THE RIGHT TO ORGANIZE
Caption: Ethel Fuzzy Chicken says "Support the Employee Free Choice Act!"
A 2005 poll conducted by Peter D. Hart and Associates found that 57 million American workers would join a union if they could. And for good reason: the labor movement has been the ticket to a measure of economic security and a voice on the job.
The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2003, union workers averaged $21.45 per hour compared with $16.96 per hour for nonunion workers. Union workers fared better in health coverage as well. A union member’s share of employer-sponsored health care was 12% of the premium for single coverage and 19% for family coverage, compared with 19% for single and 31% for family coverage for nonunion workers. (Source: The Self-Sufficiency Standard for West Virginia 2005, p. 38.)
A major step on the way to shared prosperity and a growing middle class would be restoring the rights of workers to organize. OK, so it’s still there on the books in the National Labor Relations Act, but the decks are heavily stacked against workers as employers frequently resort to intimidation and other dirty tricks.
In a survey of 400 National Labor Relations Board elections between 1998 and 1999, employers illegally fired workers for union activities in at least 25% of organizing drives. American Rights at Work places that figure at 30% and estimates that a worker is fired or discriminated against for union activity every 23 minutes. Other tactics include mandatory anti-union group an individual meetings, mailings, and threats of workplace closure or layoffs.
A remedy that is gaining momentum is the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which would increase penalties for illegal firing of employees, increase worker protections, mandate union recognition when a majority of workers sign cards in favor of membership and provide for mediation and arbitration.
Despite opposition by congressional leadership, bipartisan support for the measure is growing. Continued pressure from below could make the difference.
GOAT ROPE ADVISORY LEVEL: ELEVATED
by El Cabrero