Wednesday, June 27, 2007

After the Employee Free Rights Act

Unfortunately, the Employee Free Choice Act has died in the Senate based on a 51-48 vote for cloture. The anti worker, Management Labor Lawyers, and corporations who like to destroy their worker's hopes at a better life should be happy. They have succeeded in making elections unfair, biased and wrought with fraud and intimidation all in the name of ensuring "fair elections." The AFL-CIO's response is to say that we are building momentum while the CtW blog response is a call-to-action telling workers that:

The next step, of course, is to work even harder through 2008 and get even bigger pro-worker majorities in Congress (and a pro-worker President in the White House), so that even that 60-vote requirement won't stand in the way of ensuring the right to join together in unions for workers across America.

While I would hope that a stronger pro-labor majority in 2008 will be the turning point for lowering barriers to democratically joining a union, I don't believe that it is going to be the kind of overwhelming groundswell that is going to be necessary to change the reality on the ground. I am not sure that I have the answers to what would be the ideal strategy, but I have a couple of ideas for turning support for strengthining workers' voices through collective action.

  • First, the AFL-CIO and Change to Win federations need to do a better job letting the public know why change is immediately necessary. While this campaign had better coordination and publicity among more "general" progressive/liberal supporters, building a kind of solid coordinated campaign needed to be stronger.

  • Second, I don't believe that the next step is supporting candidates in 2008. I believe that this is important, but I think that the AFL-CIO/CtW federations need to take a strong stand on other employment legislation. This includes vigorously supporting the legislation proposed by Sens. Clinton (D-NY), Kennedy (D-MA), Mikulski (D-MD) and Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. Miller (D-CA 7) in the House to amend existing fair-pay acts to prevent another decision like Ledbetter decision by the Supreme Court. Worker's interests are advanced both by expanding membership in federations and by making the United States workplaces better environments for workers.

  • Third, workers need to be empowered in some way to see this as a fight in which they can be involved. Why not build on some of the momentum from this campaign and try and turn some vulnerable right-to-exploit states (like Colorado or Kentucky) through ballot initiatives. A strong campaign in which people feel invested is the best way to build a political base. Furthermore, as we have seen from the minimum-wage legislation, the momentum built from the states can build into federal legislation.

  • Finally, can we please, please, please, please, pleeeeeaaase (pretty please, with sugar and cherries and whipped cream on top) come up with a better message? Standing on the "workers don't need elections" is instant death. There are reasons why it is important to get card-check. The elections are corrupt and unenforceable. The endless legal battles and repeated infractions of the NLRA make the democratic decision to form a collective voice impossible. Explaining why this system is corrupt and needs to be overhauled to an American public which supports union rights is necessary; doing it in such a way that rhetorically doesn't sound like you are opposed to elections is vital.

I hope that the AFL-CIO/CtW makes good on their collective promise to build a stronger culture of organizing and not wait for our lobbyists to collect co-sponsors on the Hill and actually puts some money and effort behind changing laws on the ground state-by-state.


Phiala said...

Good for people to know.

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