Sunday, March 08, 2009

EFCA – End of the Factory Gods

Debatable Opinions; Letters to the Editor
(originally published at OpEdNews)

A letter writer to The Bismarck Tribune obviously doesn’t think much of HR 800 or The Employee Free Choice Act. He believes that the bill is “oxymoronical” and should be called “The Employee Forced Choice Act”. I decided to give the writer a pass on his over-syllabication because I hadn’t done nearly enough research on this bill.

Consequently, the first thing I did was to actually read the bill, which has to do with the right of employees to form a union. If I waded correctly through the legalese, I’m surprised to find no mention of one of the most contentious debating points used especially by those who oppose it. The controversial point is that this “bill would take away the right to a secret ballot.”

However, the bill does not offer direction on what methodology employees should use to decide whether they do or do not want to organize. In fact, the bill is clear that, if The National Labor Relations Board “finds that a majority of the employees in a unit appropriate for bargaining has signed valid authorizations”, “the Board shall not direct an election”. The bill doesn’t give the NLRB the power to force any method of determination upon the employees. The workers would be free to choose whether to decide to unionize through sign-up cards or through a secret ballot election.

To make his point, the letter writer uses The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. As many of you know, this legislation has become known as The Stimulus Package or, to some, “The Stim”. He says that, “Legislators admit they haven't even read the whole bill…” and calls this a “disturbing method of government”.

On October 26, 2001, shortly after we were “attacked”, President George W. Bush signed The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act, otherwise known as The Patriot Act.

The writer may have gotten his cue from House Republican leader John Boehner. Congressman Boehner stood before the House, Stimulus Package in his hands, and called it “1100 pages that not one member of this body has read.”

He then asked, “What happened to our promise that we were going to let the American people see what’s in this bill for forty-eight hours?”

Finally, acting as if he didn’t realize that he was holding an official legislative proposal upon which Congress was going to vote, he disrespectfully, a manner in which most Republicans have approached their jobs since the election of Barack Obama, dropped the bill on the floor.

Let’s go back to The Patriot Act.

The reason we go back to The Patriot Act is because, in his documentary film, “Fahrenheit 9/11”, Michael Moore exposes the fact that Congress, both houses, passed this “security bill” without the luxury of having read it. If we remember, and how can we forget, this “security bill” ultimately served to trespass upon a wide swath of personal liberties. If we think about Moore’s exposé, we come to the conclusion that both Boehner, an obedient and staunch supporter of The Patriot Act, and the letter writer possess a memory deficiency. The other possibility is that these two men are less than honest when arguing for or against legislation.

Returning to the Employee Free Choice Act, the myth that it takes away an employee’s right to a private ballot isn’t the only problem that our letter writer has. “If you prefer not to be a union employee under EFCA, too bad,” he writes.

After I didn’t find anything in the bill which dictates what method workers are to use to vote for or against unionization, I didn’t find anything in the bill which dictates that, if the majority of workers in a workplace vote to organize, all workers must join the union.

Having said that, the majority wins, winner-take-all society in which we live may influence the outcome of a vote and the consequence of voting to form a union may be that everyone working in that particular workplace will be expected to join. There have been so called “open shops” in the past, but no one knows what any particular workplace will do. The important thing is to remember that, even if the workplace is set up so that all who work in that workplace must join the union, there’s nothing in HR 800 which decrees such an outcome. If the union in a particular workplace demands 100% participation, The Employee Free Choice Act will not be the reason for it. This weakens the writer’s argument, to say the least.

We can look at laws that have been passed by Congress and ask ourselves if most of those laws have been passed for the benefit of society or to the detriment of society. Although there are laws with which many of us don’t agree, it’s my opinion that many members of Congress, sometimes misdirected or acting out of political panic, believe that the laws they pass are for the good of society.

Laws passed by Congress should protect the majority of Americans. At this point, my personal belief is that President Obama believes that his stimulus package will help those Americans that need the help. His naïve notion of getting his desired legislation passed with bipartisan support has impaired his efforts and diluted what he’s done so far. However, I think many of his goals are admirable.

If The Constitution and its amendments have taught us anything, they’ve taught us that laws are made for the benefit of the majority.

Of the 27 amendments which have passed, only two, as far as I can see, have penalized or victimized American citizens. One of those two amendments has been repealed.

The two amendments are the 16th amendment, which introduced the income tax and the 18th amendment which was prohibition.

Prohibition was repealed.

There may be disagreement on a few of the other amendments, but, from where I stand, they appear as though they were passed to preserve, protect and defend the people of The United States just as it’s the job of the government to preserve, protect and defend The Constitution, but it’s The Constitution’s job the preserve, protect and defend Americans.

Further proof that this opinion is still the opinion of a majority is a sampling of some of the amendments that were proposed, but didn’t pass. Among these are:

  1. The Christian Amendment proposed in 1863, because some believed that The Civil War was punishment from god.

  2. The 1912 Anti-Miscegenation Amendment which would have banned marriage between races. This probably is better described as a proposal that would have banned marriage between African Americans and everyone else.

  3. A proposal in 1968 to criminalize the desecration of the American flag. This one picks up steam on occasion, but people are still winning out over cloth, no matter what the cloth is supposed to represent.

  4. The “Human Rights” proposal in 1973 which was a direct response to Roe v. Wade.

  5. The banning of same sex marriage, proposed in 2004 by The Front Man who, I believe, still doesn’t care that much who marries whom.

Considering all of this, on whose part has the EFCA been proposed? Let’s look at some facts which may help answer that question.

The letter writer, who begins to come across as a small business owner more than someone who worries about employees losing rights, may have a point. He states that, if the EFCA is passed, small businesses, I mean really, really small businesses, may be the entities caught in the middle which get nothing from the bill. Small businesses may be hurt if their employees join a union.

He says that, “We do our best to compensate them (employees) with wages and benefits that many others don't offer in our industry.

“If employees were required to have dues deducted from their paychecks and small businesses were forced to pay more for compensation and benefits”, the costs would be passed on to the customers. One wonders, if this person was paying his employees “wages and benefits that many others don't offer in our industry”, why his employees would even consider unionizing.”

Our present economy demonstrates that it really doesn’t matter to many customers what costs are or are not passed on to them. The so called customers are/were also employees and many of the so called customers can’t afford what the letter writer is selling anyway. One reason for this is unions have been blown away by employers, whether large corporations, medium size businesses or even small businesses. Employees have been saying for a long time that “unions have outlived their usefulness” and do nothing but obstruct and impede otherwise successful businesses.

Admittedly, there came a time when unions were at least as demanding and corrupt as management. That was the fault of the rank and file, not the fault of the entity called a union. In my humble opinion, unions could never outlive their usefulness.

The day that all unions are tossed aside by their members will be the day when workers will begin to remember the usefulness of a union. Without the protection of unions, labor will cease to be a resource over which management competes. The idea that unions have outlived their usefulness is a major cause of the “race to the bottom”. The fewer unions that exist, the more confidence employers gain to take liberties with labor. The capitalist operational engine called supply and demand takes hold and, as the supply of workers increases, the demand for them falls off and so does their worth. Employees have no support, no protection. Workers find themselves in the unenviable position in which they find themselves today.

One would think that people would rather pay a little more than to have no money at all with which to buy lower priced items. In fact, the more people we have paying union dues, the more people we’d have with a wage that allows them to spend money.

One of the letter writer’s final concerns is that, if a workplace is unionized and bargaining sessions between labor and management stall, a federal bureaucrat will “fly in and dictate local decisions.”

As it is now, the company decides whether or not talk about organizing is to be allowed on its property or during the hours for which the employees are being paid. This means that, instead of a government “bureaucrat” serving as a mediator, a corporate “bureaucrat”, not the most impartial of people, controls labor relations.

I wrote above about open shops. These are workplaces in which some workers belong to a union and others do not. The truth is, especially in the case of large corporations, most employees work in open shops, whether there’s a union involved or not.

We’ve all heard of CEOs who fail. The company and the CEO come to an agreement and the CEO steps down. Notice I didn’t write that the company fires the CEO. The reason I didn’t write that is the same reason why CEOs who have failed walk away with severance packages that are worth more than most workers will receive in a life time. The reason is that CEOs do exactly what they work so hard to prevent workers from doing, they sign employment contracts!

Wages for working men and women have stagnated while pay and bonuses for CEOs have sky-rocketed.

In a study conducted in 2001, it was discovered that 20% of Americans own 84% of America’s wealth. This means that the 80% of the population owns the remaining 16% of the wealth.

In almost every form of governance, including any government headed up by Libertarians, there would inevitably be some socialism. If the government controls even a minimal army, that army is socialized. Nonetheless, Americans fear the word “socialism” as much as a cow fears the word “rib-eye”. Even those who consider themselves “left of center” debate those who call Obama a socialist by insisting he’s not a socialist. Another, truer, more courageous response would be, “There are socialist planks in his platform.” They run from the word instead of admitting that The US has for its entire existence been a socialist society to some degree.

However, Americans will never allow the US to be called a socialist democracy, even though socialist democracies seem to work as well as, if not better than most other forms of governing. Consequently, The Employee Free Choice Act may be the last chance unions will get to fortify the American worker and ensure that worker is compensated with a living wage.

To friendship,

“Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones.” - Bertrand Russell

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