Date: Sat, 10 Apr 1999 23:55:55 -0700 (PDT)
From: Harry Kelber <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: [BRC-NEWS] LaborTalk: Why Drop Worker Rights?
Why Drop Worker Rights?
Harry Kelber, from WeeklyLaborTalk
10 April 1999
For the past several years, the AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions
have spent a great deal of money, time and energy in fighting anti-labor
legislation in Congress and the state legislatures.
Now at long last, there are two bills in Congress that speak up
for the basic right of workers to join a union without the threat of being
harassed, discriminated against or fired. They contain provisions that
unions have been desperately crying for, but in vain, during the past six
years of the Clinton Administration.
The two bills are: "The Right-to-Organize Act," introduced by Sen.
Paul Wellstone (Dem.-Minn.) and "The Workplace Democracy Act" (H.R. 1277)
by Bernie Sanders (Ind.-Vt.).
The Sanders bill, in particular, would remove the major obstacles
that make it so difficult to organize non-union workers in sufficient
numbers to enable labor to grow. Here is what it provides: (1) union
recognition by a card check of the majority of workers; (2) a quicker and
fairer way to gain a first contract: "If by 45 days after certification,
no collective bargaining agreement has been reached, the union has the
right to binding arbitration."
The heavy penalties in the bill would make employers think twice
before illegally firing or harassing their employees during a union
organizing campaign. Besides having to pay triple back wages to a
discharged worker, the employer would be subject to civil penalties of not
less than $10,000 for each willful violation of the Act. Even more,
companies that willfully commit unfair labor practices would be barred
from bidding on federal government contracts.
These labor law reforms are what unions have been hoping for as
they see employers firing thousands of pro-union workers and stalling
indefinitely on negotiating a first contract with their employees.
But hard to believe, the AFL-CIO refuses to support either of the
two bills. Its spokesman on worker rights, Richard Greer, says that
"political reality," (a Republican-controlled Congress) makes it pointless
to do anything about labor law reform in the 106th Congress. In effect,
the AFL-CIO will not raise the issue of labor law reform in Election 2000.
This position makes no sense at all. What better time to promote
worker rights legislation than now, with an election coming up next year
and when the public will be listening to the issues? To involve union
members in a worker rights campaign, what more effective way is there than
giving them some tangible pro-labor bills to rally around? If AFL-CIO
leaders think this is the wrong time to campaign for worker rights
legislation, then when is the right time?
There is a strong suspicion that the AFL-CIO high command is
bowing to the wishes of the Democratic Party, which considers worker
rights a divisive issue that may cost its candidates votes. Let's recall
that labor's voice was mute on worker rights in the 1998 election, echoing
the issues framed by the Democratic candidates. Will the AFL-CIO choke up
on worker rights in the 18 months before Election 2000?
We hope you've checked out The Labor Educator's Internet newsmagazine
(www.laboreducator.org). If you subscribe, you'll be getting more solid
news and independent-minded analysis each month than any labor publication
in the United States.
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