Thursday, August 28, 2008

A law that could give Big Labor some brawn

Businessweek has an article on the Employee Free Choice Act.

For union advocates, EFCA is the No. 1 legislative priority because they say the current union election system favors employers. Employers have access to workers on the job while unions can only contact them off-site. According to research conducted by the University of Illinois at Chicago, 91% of employers require employees to attend one-on-one anti-union meetings with their supervisors during union organizing drives. It also found that when faced with organizing efforts, 30% of employers fire pro-union workers, 49% threaten to close the worksite, and 51% of employers coerce workers into opposing unions with bribery or favoritism.

Other academic studies support these findings. Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor studies education at Cornell University, says employer intimidation to discourage unionization is the norm rather than the exception. "One thing that stands out in the research is how routine this all is," she says. "These elections haven't been free or fair in the 20 years I have studied them. During an organizing drive, the workplace is a totally coercive environment; workers are not making a free choice."

Research shows that fear of employer retaliation is one of the main reasons workers don't join a union, so EFCA's protections could clear the way for more union wins. "There are always eulogies about the labor movement," says Clete Daniel, a Cornell University history professor. "But while it's been battered, the idea of workplace democracy has not been drained of its last ounce of vitality."

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