The True State of the American Workforce on Labor Day 2007…


Corporate America continues it’s war against the labor movement. After a long period of prosperity from 1948 to 1973 in which unions and corporations both prospered, most corporations have adopted a hostile attitude toward unions, spurred on by a series of anti-union presidents, including Reagan, Bush #1 and Bush #2. Where unions are present, large employers, like Wal-Mart and others, seek break them. In workplaces without unions, employers are prepared to do whatever necessary to prevent workers from organizing, even if that means violating the law.

The anti-union drive has largely enjoyed the support of the government. According to a study by John Schmitt and Ben Zipperer, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, one in five organizers will be fired during an average organizing drive. Such firings are illegal, but enforcement is painfully slow, and the penalties ineffectively small. As evidence shows, most anti-union employers eagerly embrace this blatantly anti-union loophole.

Government policies have also supported anti-union practices in other ways. The main purpose of trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), no matter what supossed advantages of this destructive policy you are spoon fed by short-sighted globalists, is to make it as easy as possible to relocate factories overseas and allow corporate fat cats to stuff their pockets on the back of American workers. This, coupled with incompetent management of the economy by the Bush administration has resulted in a 30 percent over-valued dollar which in turn effectively imposes a 30 percent tariff on goods exported from the United States.

The result of these dog-and-pony-show policies is that much manufacturing, and in once manufacturing powerhouse places like Buffalo NY – virtually all manufacturing – has been moved overseas in the last quarter century, giving the country a trade deficit of more than $700 billion annually that continues to grow. These lost jobs have been disproportionately union jobs. While the unionization rate in manufacturing was more than 40 percent in the sixties, in 2007 it is just around 12.0 percent. And, with the loss of these union jobs has come weaker, watered down benefits because workers simply do not have the muscle to negotiate for fair treatment against collossal, well financed anti-union employers, who are prepared to hurt American workers at the prodding of stockholders.  

The weakening of the labor movement is not just bad news for the workers who lose union jobs. According to polling data, there are tens of millions of workers who would like to be represented by a union at their workplace, but don’t have that option. Right to work laws in many Southern conservative states make it all but impossible to organize. While public sector managers are not generally friendly to unions either, they are more restricted when it comes to firing union organizers or using other harsh anti-union tactics that are now standard practice in the private sector. As a result, more than 36 percent of public sector employees are members of unions, while private sector unions languish. When polled regarding the freedom to choose, data suggests that as many as sixty percent of American workers would join a union if they could. 

Congress is currently debating a bill that would take an important step toward re-establishing the right of workers to join a union. The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) would require a company to recognize a union once a majority of workers have signed a card indicating they want to be represented by a union. This gets around the election process, which gives employers a chance to intimidate workers and fire the leaders of an organizing effort. (Under the EFCA, workers can still request an election supervised by the National Labor Relations Board.) The bill passed by the House by is currently being blocked by a Republican filibuster in the Senate. While the EFCA is not likely to become law under this Congress (anti-worker President Bush would almost certainly veto the bill even if it did pass), pro-labor groups should recognize the importance of legislation. The right to organize is not the concern of just a small special interest group as many conservatives would have the American electorate believe, it is a basic and essential right that should concern every American that wishes our country continued prosperity. 

Unions have also been essential to a wide range of political initiatives over the post-war World War II period. Programs including Medicare, Medicaid and Head Start would not have been possible without the strong support of the American labor movement. Big labor has also prevented President Bush from privatizing Social Security and it will be difficult to make more progress on other key social and economic legislation without the support of a strong labor movement.

This Labor Day weekend, make an effort to say thanks to all of those who have built and continue to make America the greatest place on earth in which to live – call out conservatives for the short-sighted, anti-American worker, political hypocrites that they are – support organized labor.

Posted on September 2, 2007, in Economic Policy, George Bush, Globalism, Labor, Politics, Social Policy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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