In recent weeks, you may have seen ads on TV or news releases or letters to the editor in your local newspaper bashing “big labor” and the Employee Free Choice Act.
The EFCA is federal legislation — passed by the U.S. House but stalled in the U.S. Senate — that will make it easier for workers to organize unions. Both the AFL-CIO and the Change to Win Federation have united to make passing EFCA a priority for the new Congress in 2009.
In attacking the EFCA, opponents distort the facts and charge that the legislation would end secret ballot elections in union organizing drives. Not true.
The foundation of modern labor law, the Wagner Act of 1935, provided a path to union recognition when a majority of workers in a workplace signed union authorization cards — simple and fair.
When labor adversaries passed the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947 over President Truman’s veto, however, employers gained the right to reject the workers’ union authorization cards and to petition the National Labor Relations Board to conduct an election to determine if a workplace should become union.
But the NLRB election process bears little resemblance to elections to choose our leaders for local, state and federal government. In the run-up to NLRB elections, employers pull out all the stops to intimidate workers into rejecting the union. These abuses are well-documented, including mandatory attendance at anti-union meetings, one-on-one meetings, threats to close the business if the union wins the vote, and even firing workers for pro-union activity.
The EFCA would give workers, not employers, the right to decide how to express the choice about going union: through the card-check process OR through the NLRB election process.
If passed, the EFCA will help expand the number of workers who enjoy union wages and union benefits like health insurance and retirement plans. If passed, the EFCA will help expand the number of workers who have a voice on the job through their union.
The EFCA is about empowering workers. And that’s why you’re now hearing more about it from the opposition.
So beware of messages from groups with the nice-sounding names like “The Coalition for a Democratic Workplace” or “Minnesotans for Employee Freedom.” These are anti-union, business-funded groups not at all concerned with the rights of workers.
These anti-union groups aim to distort the issues involving the Employee Free Choice Act. They’re using broadcast media. They’re using print media. They’re using “push polling” — spreading disinformation in the guise of a poll to sway, not measure, public opinion.
And now this right-wing smear is extending beyond the EFCA to attack our labor-endorsed candidates for U.S. House and U.S. Senate.
Our foes would like nothing better than to distract voters from the real issues in this campaign — jobs, health care, the economy. To do so, they’re spreading false charges and smearing unions, the EFCA, and labor’s endorsed candidates.
Don’t let them get away with it.
Bill McCarthy is president of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation. This commentary is reprinted from the Minneapolis Labor Review.