The War on Workers
By David Sirota
The San Francisco Chronicle
Posted by Bulatlat
Secretary Rod Paige labeled one "a terrorist organization." Former House
Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, called them "a clear and present
danger to the security of the United States." And U.S. Rep. Charles
Norwood, R-Ga., claimed they employ "tyranny that Americans are fighting
and dying to defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan" and are thus "enemies of
freedom and democracy," who show "why we still need the Second Amendment"
to defend ourselves with firearms.
Who are these
supposed threats to America? No, not Osama bin Laden followers, but labor
unions made up of millions of workers - janitors, teachers, firefighters,
police officers, you name it.
organized labor is a Republican pathology, to the point where unions are
referenced with terms reserved for military targets. In his 1996 article,
headlined "GOP Readies for War With Big Labor," conservative columnist
Robert Novak cheered the creation of a "GOP committee task force on the
labor movement" that would pursue a "major assault" on unions. As one
Republican lawmaker told Novak, GOP leaders champion an "anti-union
attitude that appeals to the mentality of hillbillies at revival
while disgusting, is unsurprising. Unions wield power for workers, meaning
they present an obstacle to Republican corporate donors, who want to put
profit-making over other societal priorities.
minimum wage just happened? Think employer-paid health care and pensions
have been around for as long as they have by some force of magic? Think
again - unions used collective bargaining to preserve these benefits. As
the saying goes, union members are the folks that brought you the weekend.
government's numbers explain how unions have helped their members.
According to an analysis of federal data by the Labor Research
Association, average union members receive a quarter more in compensation
than nonunion workers. Eighty-nine percent of union members have access to
employer-sponsored health care, compared to just 67 percent of nonunion
workers. Unionized workers receive 26 percent more vacation than nonunion
benefit nonunion workers. That's thanks to the "union threat effect"
whereby anti-union companies meet higher standards in order to prevent
workers from becoming angry and organizing. For instance, Princeton
researchers found in industries that are 25 percent unionized, average
nonunion workers get 7.5 percent more compensation specifically because of
The flip side
is obvious: The more corporations and politicians crush unions, the more
all workers suffer. It is no coincidence that as union membership and
power has declined under withering anti-union attacks, workers have seen
their wages stagnate, pensions slashed, and share of national income hit a
60-year low. As Council on Foreign Relations scholars put it, the decline
in unions "is correlated with the early and sharp widening of the U.S.
claims union membership has declined because workers do not want to join
unions - a claim debunked by public-opinion data. In 2002, Harvard
University and University of Wisconsin researchers found at least 42
million workers want to be organized into a bargaining unit - more than
double the 16 million unionized workers in America. A 2005 nationwide
survey by respected pollster Peter Hart found 53 percent of nonunion
workers - that's more than 50 million people - want to join a union, if
given the choice.
however, workers have no real choice. According to Cornell University
experts, 1 in 4 employers illegally fires at least one worker during a
union drive, 3 in 4 hire anti-union consultants, and 8 in 10 force workers
to attend anti-union meetings. When workers petition the government to
enforce laws protecting organizing rights, they are forced to go before
the National Labor Relations Board, which is both run by anti-union
presidential appointees, and chronically understaffed so as to slow down
proceedings. When Democrats have tried to expand workers' union rights by
introducing the Employee Free Choice Act, the GOP has prevented a vote on
So when GOP
lawmakers pledge their commitment to workers at Labor Day celebrations
today, remember - Republicans are waging a war on the very workers they
purport to care about.
� 2006 Bulatlat
Alipato Media Center
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