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.