I write letters.

Wal-Mart Watch reminds me that my new Senator is incredibly wishy-washy on the most important labor reform bill of the last fifty years. This reminds me of the letter I wrote him back on 2/23. Since it's just sitting on my computer collecting dust, I figure I might as well post it below. Dear Senator Bennet: I am writing in order to encourage you to support the Employee Free Choice Act. My understanding is that it will have the chance to vote for it in just a few short weeks. I hope you do so, because nothing you do as a Senator from now on will have a greater impact on helping the people of Colorado recover from the dire economic situation we all face. As I’m sure you know our current economic downturn is worsening quickly because of the American public’s inability to spend at the rate it has in previous years. While this problem has grown more acute lately, the roots of this difficult go back at least thirty years. Ever since de-industrialization began in the 1960s and 1970s, technology has made American workers more productive but wages have stagnated. At first, the rising stock market helped compensate for this downturn in earnings. Then came the rise of the credit card culture. After the tragedy of 9/11, loose mortgage lending let people use their houses like a credit card. Now that the era of loose credit has passed, the best way to get money in the hands of American consumers is to make it easier for them to bargain collectively with their employers. It is no coincidence that wages stagnated at the same time that the Republican Party began a prolonged campaign to destroy workers' bargaining rights. The Employee Free Choice Act is the only viable solution to level the playing field in the workplace and get people the money they need so that they can start spending again. You may have heard any number of opponents of the bill complain that it would do away with the secret ballot during representation elections. This is untrue. Indeed, with a little research it is easy to understand that the Employee Free Choice Act only gives workers a different way to organize themselves. Existing law states that if 30% of workers request a secret ballot election they can have it. The Employee Free Choice Act does nothing to change that law. Its intention is merely to short circuit the now-common efforts of anti-union employers to intimidate workers into voting against organization by threatening retribution against union supporters or closing their plant. In other words, the secret ballot isn’t going anywhere. Here in Pueblo you can see the effects of the economic crisis everywhere. There is a shortage of good-paying jobs, a rash of foreclosures just to name two problems near the top of the list. Our largest employers are the school system, the hospitals and the university where I teach, CSU-Pueblo. These are not the kinds of jobs that can be outsourced to China. If workers in Pueblo can begin to bargain with their employers like they did in this town’s heyday, we can make more and therefore spend more locally to help get the whole town moving again. To make this happen, we’ll need your help. Tax cuts and government spending are not enough. We need to be able to make money for the long-term and that can only be done through the higher wages that collective bargaining brings. Thank you for considering my thoughts. Regards, Jonathan Rees

9 Responses to “I write letters.”

  1. UncleBob says:

    Okay – I’m being serious and not trying to be condescending or anything when I ask this – I really would like a truthful, honest answer.

    Obviously, it should be easier to get 30% of people to sign a card than 50%.

    Now, let’s say the Unions play completely fair and above the board and the employers play down and dirty tactics, using whatever means they can to crush the resistance.

    How would it be easier (and safer for employees who fear retaliation from the boss) to get 50% of the people to sign a card that everyone will know about vs. getting only 30% of them to sign, then letting them vote – in secret – where no one has to know who voted for who?

    I understand that the 30% option will still be there – but what advantage does the 50% option give – besides letting the employees stress about letting everyone know if they support the Union or not?

  2. Bob:

    Everyone, especially the employer, won’t know the names. The cards go directly to the NLRB.

  3. UncleBob says:

    But the chances of someone finding out (i.e.: you are seen signing a card) are greater than someone knowing what you voted for on a secret ballot.

    And – again – it’s easier to get 30% than 50%.

    So what’s the advantage to a straight-up-play by the rules Union drive to get 50%?

  4. Someone finding out? The problem is management (which has the power to fire you for supporting the union). This is Znet:

    In a recent report, the Center for Economic and Policy Research calculated that employers fire an impressive one in five union activists during union election campaigns. Using a conservative calculation method developed by University of Chicago economists, the report concludes that pro-union workers in general have a one-in-fifty chance of being fired by their employer during a union election campaign, but employers “are unlikely to fire workers randomly, or simply for expressing pro-union views. Employers maximize the return to illegal firing by focusing on union activists.”

    Passing the law makes this illegal firing less likely than a normal organizing campaign. The 30% figure is not in EFCA, it’s the law already. Not amending it makes the law easier to pass.

  5. UncleBob says:

    >”Someone finding out? The problem is management (which has the power to fire you for supporting the union).”

    So – again – what is the advantage for an up-and-up Union to aim for 50% over 30%? Shouldn’t it be easier to get 30% without fear of anyone getting “caught”?

  6. Jonathan Rees says:

    Dude,

    The 30% is to call for a regular election, not to organize a union.

  7. UncleBob says:

    Yes. So, let’s say you have a business where 51% of the people *want* to join a union – but some of them are afraid management will find out they support the union and will get terminated.

    Wouldn’t it be easier (and make more sense) to aim for 30% and have an election where you can then get the full 50% without having to worry if management finds out which way you swing?

  8. No because management can terminate union activists during the campaign, while they’re campaigning. See the story quoted above.

  9. UncleBob says:

    In theeory, management could do that either way.
    So, again, why 50% vs. 30%?

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