April 24, 2009
Big Business: Do As We Say, Not As We Do
Hypocrisy of EFCA opponents knows no limits
The Employee Free Choice Act will do three very important things:
- Take away the employer’s power to decide how workers choose union representation, giving the choice to employees alone
- Provide for mediation on first contract disputes after 90 days and binding arbitration if either side fails to negotiate after 120 days
- Increase penalties on employers who violate labor law
The Employee Free Choice Act gives employees the choice on how to form a union. They can choose a secret ballot or majority sign up, where a majority of workers indicate their choice by signing authorization cards. Either choice is available and legal under current law. Now, however, the boss gets to choose for you. With EFCA, that choice is yours alone.
Big Business says taking away their power to force a secret ballot is undermining workplace democracy. When else does the boss encourage you and your coworkers to make decisions in the workplace using a secret ballot?
Can you hold a secret ballot to decide if your boss can stop contributing to your 401k? Does your boss let you vote to decide between layoffs and million dollar bonuses for executives? Do employees where you work get to cast a secret ballot to determine executive compensation at all? Are even shareholders entitled to make those decisions by secret ballot?
No. Where you work isn’t a democracy; it’s a dictatorship. Here’s Wall Street Journal columnist Thomas Frank on Big Business’ “yawning hypocrisies“:
The business community has opportunities every day to stand up for a “democratic workplace.” Why don’t the Chamber’s member companies just let their workers vote whenever management wants to increase the deductible on their health insurance? Why doesn’t the Employee Freedom Action Committee run indignant TV commercials every time a company moves a factory overseas without first consulting its work force?
The answer, of course, is that most workplaces aren’t democracies at all. They are dictatorships, of varying degrees of benevolence.
Nor do most big employers really have anything against intimidation and coercion during elections. These are the everyday tools of what is politely called “union avoidance,” and companies routinely use them when their employees try to organize: threats to move the operation abroad if the union wins the election, compulsory meetings to listen to anti-union propaganda, termination for select pro-union employees.
Got a problem? Take it to the judge arbiter
Have you ever signed up for cable or satellite TV or mobile phone service? Do you have private health insurance or any credit cards? Have you ever worked for Walmart, Home Depot, or for any number of other corporations?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of those questions, you have probably been forced to agree to binding arbitration to settle any and all disputes with the company. Forcing people to give up their constitutional right to access the courts is just one of the ways corporate America does business.
Then why are corporations like Caterpillar objecting to a provision of the Employee Free Choice Act which would mandate mediation, then arbitration, if the company refused to negotiate a first contract with the union?
Thirty-two percent of all new unions fail to get a first contract within a year of voting for representation. Even though it is illegal, there are no penalties for anti-union employers who engage in “surface bargaining”. In fact, if the company can drag things out to a stalemate, they can unilaterally impose working conditions!
When it suits their interests, Big Business is all too happy to force you into binding arbitration. When it’s in the interest of establishing a collective bargaining agreement, they say mediation and binding arbitration will lead to “the demise of civilization“.
Contracts for the boss, but not for your labor
Corporate executives wouldn’t work a day without an employment contract to protect their hyper-inflated sense of self worth with multi-million dollar salaries, stock options, golden parachutes, supplemental retirement plans, and ridiculous bonuses – pay and perks handed out even as some of them drive their companies (and the economy) off a cliff!
In one academic study, 46 percent of CEO’s at Standard & Poor’s companies had an explicit employment agreement as of 2000. Yet executives routinely deny workers the opportunity to negotiate their own contract to determine wages and benefits. Only 14 percent of American workers have a written contract according to a 2008 census report.
Even executives who do not have written employment agreements receive far more generous benefits than those negotiated by workers. Check out this video by American Rights at Work about corporate hypocrisy on contracts, pay and perks at your new job: