Labor-ing For Fair Workplace Representation

May 14, 2010

United Steelworkers International President Leo W. Gerard tells us the following (here)…

Corporate CEOs, union-busting lawyers, and conservative politicians who pander to the rich condemned a National Mediation Board (NMB) Ruling this week.

They complained that the NMB gave railway and airline workers the ability to obtain collective bargaining rights through majority-rule elections. That’s the type of balloting that occurs under universal democratic rules. Everyone qualified to vote is invited to participate, and the outcome is determined by the majority of those who cast ballots.

The anti-worker-rights groups wanted the NMB to retain a different kind of election – one that requires the winner to receive votes from the majority of all of those qualified to participate — essentially, a supermajority.

This is an exciting new development. Up until now CEOs, union-busters, and particularly conservative Republicans, have actively opposed the Employee Free Choice Act, mainly because of a provision they call “card check.” But card check provides exactly what they now say that they want – a determination made by the majority of all of those qualified to participate. So, clearly, since they’re so upset by the end of supermajority rule for airline and railroad workers, they’d be happy if Congress intervened and instituted it for all workers by passing the Employee Free Choice Act.

(By the way, let me restate two facts about the Employee Free Choice Act, since it hasn’t been acted on in Congress for awhile, nor has it been reported in the media; contrary to right-wing propaganda, it would not eliminate the secret ballot, but would give workers the choice to vote with “cards” or in secret. It would also let workers decide when votes on joining a union would take place, going a long way towards preventing corporate intimidation and foot-dragging.)

This post from firedoglake provides background on how we arrived at this happy development, with former NMB Dubya appointee Elizabeth Dougherty whining about how she supposedly had been “left out on the cold” on this issue (of course, as FDL tells us, Dougherty was perfectly happy casting a blind eye towards corporate intimidation in the face of efforts by Delta flight attendants to unionize; almost 100 percent voted in favor of unionization in 2008, but due to Delta’s tactics, only about 50 percent ended up voting in the election).

As Gerard tells us in his post, the status quo for far too long was to assume that voters who didn’t vote in an election voted no (tilting the odds against those who voted yes), as well as having employers decide who would vote on the question of joining a union, excusing employers from providing a list of workers seeking collective bargaining. Now, only No means No, if you will.

And who has led the charge against the rule change? Why, none other than Johnny Isakson of Georgia (not surprising since, as noted here, Delta was Isakson’s most generous campaign contributor).

No matter how peeved I may get at the Obama Administration from time to time on other issues, I am still glad that he resides in An Oval Office; agencies of government now, for the most part, do our bidding instead of that of our corporate “betters.”

Too bad that elections have consequences, Senator Isakson, isn’t it?

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