Nothing irritates a Republican more than to see a man get an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work. The only thing more annoying to a Republican than men and women making a living wage is a whole society of well-paid workers turning into something called a solid Middle Class.
Nothing holds more risk to the Neocon-Republican plan of destroying the Middle Class than the pending Employee Free Choice Act. The two bits of legislation that the entrenched forces still controlling much of the policy in this country fear most are the Employee Free Choice Act and health care legislation. The former will make it easier for working men to get jobs, keep jobs, earn good wages, pensions and healthcare. The latter will mean that all Americans need never fear again that becoming ill or having an accident can ruin their lives. Union jobs are higher paying jobs that offer the kinds of benefits that working men and women need in order to care for their families.
Corporate lobbying groups like The Heritage Foundation and the Chamber of Commerce are the principal antagonists. Both are vehemently against unions and have as their organizing principle the defeat of labor and the dominance of management. They don’t care about jobs. They care about their jobs, working for the CEOs of major corporations who earn 500 times what the average worker makes and still complain about paying an average of about 20% of their income in taxes.
We know statistically and factually that when workers have attempted to form unions, an average of one out of four workers was fired. Fired with no recourse. We know that unions have cut wages and made concessions year after year, that management used intimidation to prevent workers from organizing. The Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics reports:
In 2008, union members accounted for 12.4 percent of employed wage and salary workers, up from 12.1 percent a year earlier, the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The number of workers belonging to a union rose by 428,000 to 16.1 million. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent, and there were 17.7 million union workers.
Despite a huge increase in population the number of union workers has actually gone down, until last year. Last year, with the tyranny of the government-industrial complex and the constant threat to move jobs overseas, plus a continuing loss of healthcare and jobs, workers began to join unions again. Over 428,000 in 2008. And this is why the American Manufacturing Association, the Chamber of Commerce, the Heritage Foundation and the Neocon-Republican party are shaking in their boots.
If the Employee Free Choice Act is passed–let’s be honest–there won’t be any secret ballots. Employees will sign authorization cards in record numbers. The collusion between big Republican government and big international corporations will lose its power. And they know it. They like to describe this bill the “Card Check Act.” Of course, there has always been a card check in the union organizing process. But this time they are right. The card check will be all that is needed. Most workers will sign up. Unions will grow and the average working person will flourish.
The way the process has always worked is this: everyone who wants to start a union signs a card indicating preference for or against an election to have a union. This is where management has always had an advantage. If 30% sign up the employer has to hold a secret election. If half the people sign up, then the secret election can be by-passed if the employer voluntarily decides to simply recognize the union. The new bill says the same, except that if 50% or more sign up, there is no election, period. There is a union. And if things really go wrong, a government arbitration board steps in. They have virtually complete power to get the union up and running and do so in a way that makes sure the owner simply doesn’t decide to shut down for a while and lay everyone off.
Many people think that the secret ballot was a good idea. But with the owners of the corporation still having the upper hand, and with so many abuses over the last twenty years, it is time to set the ball back in the middle of the playing field. If management had been sincere, if things looked grim, they would have done what General Motors did when they finally had no choice. They sat down with workers and worked out a plan whereby workers get a greatly reduced wage, but a livable wage. Most manufacturers never even got that far. They never considered their workers. They shipped the jobs overseas.
It is interesting that in the state of New York, where there is the highest percentage of unionized workers (24.9%) many of the same trades and skills that made this country great are still in place and wages and living standards are high. But in the state of South Carolina, where union membership is the lowest (3.5%) almost none of the skills associated with textile or furniture or apparel manufacture exist any longer, only low-paying non-union jobs. A lot of hard working, intelligent South Carolinians are being made poorer by another group of ignorant, foolish South Carolinians who vote consistently against their own best interests.
Even with the huge and well-financed campaign against passage of this new, stronger, pro-worker bill, the American worker may finally have awakened to the fact that he or she must pressure Congress to pass this Employee Free Choice Act. Our labor is the most oppressed of any among the advanced industrialized countries. The increased union numbers may mean that the Senate will feel the pressure to pass a strong bill to help create well-paying jobs and restore the middle class that, at one time, made us the envy of the world.