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Monday, February 19, 2007

The Men in the Factory Are Old and Cunning

In the annals of conservative myths, "union intimidation" has to rank somewhere up there with "voter fraud" and the "liberal media." Sure, such phenonema probably exist, though the evidence for them is rather thin. But in terms of perniciousness, they are simply dwarfed by their opposites: conservative-friendly media, voter intimidation, and, of course, suppression of unions and union organizers. With the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that would make it easier to join a union, currently winding its way through Congress, the knives have been coming out against it: Dick Cheney has said President Bush will veto EFCA if it ever reaches his desk, and an anti-union diatribe recently graced the pages of the L.A. Times.

Michael Swartz's contribution to this effort comes in the form of raising the specter of "unionistas, who want to have the perfect right to strongarm and intimidate 50 percent plus one of the workers in a place of employment into signing a card guaranteeing that the union collects dues from 100% of the workers." Unlike, say, the virtuous employers who force employees to watch anti-union propaganda, threaten to close down the firm, or actually fire workers to try to form a union. While that's technically illegal, the penalties for doing so are so feeble, and the National Labor Relations Board so tilted in favor of management, that there are really no protections at all. It might be nice to have secret ballot elections, but there's no point to keeping that if the entire process is screwed up. Granted, my sources on this are all from pro-union sites, just as Michael's are from anti-union sites. But intuitively, wouldn't it make more sense that the guy who signs your paychecks has more influence over you than the guy next to you in the employee locker room? I may be strongly in favor of unions, but let's not kid ourselves: they're not demigods.

Speaking of unions, if you're on Facebook, go check out the EFCA group I set up.

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