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Employer intimidation

Letter to the Editor | Sunday, April 5, 2009

I am writing in response to Brian Benjamin’s April 1 letter “Unions May be the Problem.” He argues that the Employee Free Choice Act will create a situation in which unions will coerce workers to sign cards. Despite his concern for the worker, he has a completely misguided view of the balance of power in the workplace. In fact, all of the power is in the hands of the people writing the checks (the employers) who often hire “union-busters,” men and women whose job it is to help employers run anti-union campaigns.

Employers can and do threaten and intimidate their workers into voting against a union. Many employers would rather violate the terms of the National Labor Relations Act and suffer the consequences than let their workers unionize. Statistics show that a worker in an organizing campaign has a one in five chance of being fired for union activity, despite the fact that employers know full well that it is illegal to do so. If workers are not fired, they are often forced into repeated, one-on-one, anti-union meetings with their supervisors in which they are coerced and threatened into voting against a union. What power does a union organizer have in coercing employees to sign a union card? They cannot threaten a worker’s job or benefits; they have no power because they are not writing the checks.

The Employee Free Choice Act will help to eliminate some of the extreme harassment that workers face in union campaigns. It will make the penalties harsher for employers who violate the law by firing workers or intimidating employees.

Fifty-three percent of non-unionized workers want a union (www.efca.org). However, because the power is in the hands of the employer, the process to form a union is far more difficult than it should be. Even if a secret ballot election is conducted and a majority of workers vote in favor of a union, 44 percent of the time they cannot get a first contract. Employers often use various tactics to delay or halt negotiations with their employees in order to avoid making the changes that the workers want.

In his letter, Benjamin notes that he is not alone in his opinion; Democratic Senator George McGovern is against the EFCA as well. With the backlash from corporate America, Benjamin and McGovern find themselves standing with corporate CEOs across the nation, including the extremely vocal former Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott. These CEOs, who in fact have contracts themselves to protect their grossly inflated pay and benefits, are often the people who lead anti-union campaigns of intimidation and harassment in their businesses. As for the rest of America, 73 percent support the act.

Luckily for Benjamin, if employees find that their rights are being ignored, and they are being coerced by union representatives because of the card check system, workers can still choose to have a secret ballot election instead. However, I think we will find that this is not even an issue.

Sarah Furman


Welsh Family Hall

April 1