September 05, 2007


Caption: As this gray tree frog will tell you, it's hard to hang on these days.

The theme of this week's Goat Rope is the future of the labor movement. To be exact, Monday's was about the benefits of union membership, Tuesday's was about the reasons for it's decline, and yesterday's was about the dirty and illegal tricks employers often play to prevent workers from organizing.

The best solution to this problem is the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). I've written about it many times in this blog and elsewhere.

(For more background, search this blog for Employee Free Choice Act--not abbreviated--in the top left corner of the screen.)

Here's the short version. This bill would essentially restore the right of workers to organize and form unions by doing several things.

*It would allow people to bypass NLRB elections by a card check system. Under this, if the majority of workers signed a card in favor of union membership, the union would be recognized as the bargaining agent.

*It would increase penalties for companies that illegally fire and/or intimidate workers trying to organize; and

*It would provide mediation and arbitration for first contracts.

Opponents of this measure pretend that the measure is an attack on secret ballots. This is bogus for more more than one reason. First, secret ballots remain an option. Second, it's not a fair and free election if you can be intimidated, demoted and fired for voting for a union (see yesterday's post). For a good look at the differences between a federal election and a union election under the current system, click here.

Next time: prospects for passage and a state initiative.

ALONG THE THEME of rebuilding the middle class in a postindustrial age, here's an item from the Washington Post.

SICKNESS UNTO DEATH. I'm talking health care, not Kierkegaard (although he could well show up here at some point). Here is a good interview about US health care woes with Jonathan Cohn, author of SICK and a writer for the New Republic.

WHAT'S (NOT) UP. This is from the latest snapshot from the Economic Policy Institute:

American families today are increasingly feeling the pinch of higher energy prices, housing market uncertainty, and growing health care costs. Historically, typical families could expect to see annual increases in their earnings to help cope with financial challenges, improve their standard of living, or just save for a rainy day. These expectations of economic progress are no longer being met.

Last week the Census Bureau released new estimates of inflation-adjusted household incomes and individual earnings. Median real household income in 2006 was $48,201, an increase of $356, or about 0.7%, from 2005. At this point in the economic recovery, we should expect to see an increase. But it is important to put this increase in historical context, as well as closely examine the causes.

In an alarming reversal of past progress, real household income for the typical family has declined over the last seven years. Despite increases over the prior two years, median household income for 2006 (the last year for which data are available) is still $1,043 below its peak in 1999...

VOTE EARLY, VOTE OFTEN. WV Governor Joe Manchin is pretty popular here, but one of his decisions isn't. I am of course referring the to the "Open for Business" signs at the state borders, which replaced the "Welcome to Wild Wonderful West Virginia," which most people seemed to like. State residents now have a chance to vote online at the following sites:, or El Cabrero is in the restorationist camp.



Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Too many Americans do not know the history of the labor movement in the U.S. (and Europe). In high school text books, I’ve only seen it mentioned briefly. The richness of the labor movement and its relation to other social movements is an important part of our history and culture. That’s partly why on Labor Day I posted the lyrics to Woody and Pete’s song, “Talking Union,” on my blog. We are at an age when we again better start talking union or pay (we already are) the consequences.

El Cabrero said...

Hey Nick,
You're right. Labor history is almost totally ignored if not outright censored. Here's hoping for a rebirth!