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Investors, Scholars and Global Support for Employee Free Choice Act

Jeremy Sprinkle
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(Picture) Employee Free Choice ActInvestors speak out for Employee Free Choice Act

Right now is the right time for Congress to pass the Employee Free Choice Act says a coalition of investors who manage almost $400 billion in assets in a letter to the bill's primary sponsors.

The support of these 26 leaders from the investment community is a welcome addition to our coalition and comes from a business community that has thus far vehemently opposed passage of any law that would level the playing field for workers who want a union:

"As investors, we understand that constructive and positive labor relations are essential for improving corporate performance, efficiency and workplace safety. Effective partnerships between employees and employers enhance productivity and corporate loyalty, enabling companies to attract and retain skilled staff in order to better drive corporate innovation."

The collapse of collective bargaining has "contributed to dangerous and unprecedented disparities in wealth and income in the United States," and makes the current economic crisis worse, write the investors:

"In the face of a global economic collapse born largely in the U.S. market, a key component to a global recovery is strengthening the purchasing power of American workers. Today, consumer activity accounts for roughly 70 percent of the U.S. economy. For many years, U.S. workers sustained their consumption through debt, yet such debt-driven consumption is clearly not sustainable. Workers need to be adequately rewarded for their productivity, and earn the income they need to purchase basic goods and services.

"The decline in unionization in the United States, exacerbated by a variety of anti-union responses from companies and weaker U.S. labor law, has damaged the fragile relationship between management and employees and depressed the prospects for sustained economic recovery."

Unlike opponents of Employee Free Choice Act, this group of investors cite studies that show "unionization can have strong long-term benefits for individual companies," including one study of 750 large, publicly traded firms that found returns to shareholders at companies with best labor practices "are three times greater" than companies with weak practices.

Ultimately, "workers, not employers, should decide if and how they join a union," the investors conclude:

"As the law now stands in the U.S., it is employers - not workers - who decide what method may be used for unionization (either majority sign-up or secret ballot election). We believe workers should have the right to choose how they want to form a union, just as they have that right in dozens of countries around the world...In reality, we believe that a choice of methods is necessary and appropriate, since there is credible evidence that the secret ballot process has been abused in the U.S."

You can read the group of investors' entire letter here (opens PDF). It includes a list of the many other developed and developing nations that provide workers with a majority sign-up option and how workers in those countries can freely exercise their rights.

(Picture) Political Economy Research Institute1,000 plus scholars declare support for Employee Free Choice Act

Citing the thirty-year decline in workers covered by a collective bargaining agreement as a major cause of the growing gap between worker productivity and wages, more than 1,000 scholars have also signed their names to a letter calling for quick passage of the Employee Free Choice Act:

"This gap has contributed to the current financial crisis and deepening recession, as credit and unsustainable asset appreciation took the place of wage increases. The suppression of wages has also exacerbated economic inequality, and with it a host of other serious economic and social ills."

From the AFL-CIO Blog:

The academics who support Employee Free Choice are a diverse group, spanning a range of disciplines, and include Nobel Prize-winning economists, historians and business school professors. Authored by historian David Brody, the letter addresses the need for the Employee Free Choice Act from this broad array of fields of study. These scholars, Brody says, know what the freedom to form unions and bargain means for individual workers, communities, workplace democracy, the economy and human rights. As the scholars say in the letter:

"[W]e understand the importance of a strong, independent and democratic labor movement as a counterweight against excessive corporate power and a bulwark of social inclusion and political participation."

David Zonderman, professor of history and labor at NC State University, is one of the scholars who signed their letter of support for the Employee Free Choice Act. You can see video of our three part interview with Professor Zonderman, in which he makes the historical case for reforming U.S. labor law. Watch Part 1 of 3, Part 2 of 3, and Part 3 of 3.

(Picture) Global UnionsGlobal solidarity of labor for Employee Free Choice Act

Just as collective bargaining agreements at some companies can lift wages and improve working conditions for non-union workers in the United States, the anti-worker, anti-union corporate culture which has developed here has consequences for employees in other countries.

A report released at the Global Summit on Organizing in December 2007 showed that anti-union tactics are being exported by multi-national corporations to other countries where they do business.

The global union movement is responding to this threat by strongly supporting passage of the Employee Free Choice Act and calling out U.S. employers' deceptions about the bill:

"As part of its multi-million dollar campaign against the Employee Free Choice Act, US employers, that violate - every day and on a massive scale - the basic rights of U.S. workers to organise and bargain, are invoking “democracy” to cover their misdeeds. They are pitting what they call democracy against the fundamental human rights of workers to be free to form trade unions and to bargain collectively."

Read more about global support for the Employee Free Choice Act at the AFL-CIO Blog.