Wednesday, March 11, 2009

LeftBlog: War on Working Families

Last week on KPEL we had a caller call in to ask me my opinion on the Employee Free Choice Act – though the caller referred to it as a Check Card System. My response was that I am a huge supporter and vocal advocate for the Employee Free Choice Act and for several reasons.
  1. First let’s look at the FACTS surrounding the matter of the EFCA –
    The Labor Unions have all signed on as supporters of the EFCA – this is CONTRARY to what you are hearing on the Cable TV Ads that Republican and Business interest groups are telling you. The Labor Unions SUPPORT this bill and there are many reasons for that support.

  2. The Republicans and Business interests groups would have you believe that this is going to get rid of the SECRET BALLOT in the work place – this is NOT TRUE. Nowhere in this bill does it take away the right to a secret ballot.

Now, let’s look at some FACTS and FIGURES:

  • 75% of Employers hire consultants or union-busters to help them fight union organizing drives.
  • 78% of Employers force employees to attend one-on-one meetings with their own supervisors against the union.

  • 51% of Companies threaten to close the plant if the union wins the election; yet only 1% actually does close their business due to a union vote.

  • 73% of Americans say that laws protecting the freedom to join unions are important

I think now is an appropriate time to point out that for more than the past decade wages have remained FLAT – wages are staying the same yet Productivity is going through the roof. This means American Workers are working harder and getting more done – yet their wages are completely flat.

During this very same time CEO and top management pay has shot through the roof. In a 2004 study by Kevin Murphy and Jan Zabonjnik they report that in 1970 the average CEO salary and bonus packages were typically about $700k per year or 25 times that of the average production worker. Fast forward to 2000 CEO pay had jumped to $2.2 Million on average or 90 times that of the average production employee once you include stock options, and other benefits you are jumping to nearly 500 times the average worker salary.

Put this another way – the ratio of Average CEO pay to the average pay of a production worker was 431 to 1 in 2004 which is up from 301 to 1 in 2003 according to Executive Excess. During the past 15 years we have seen a sizable increase in corporate profitability.

Boil it down – CEO Pay has risen by 298% through 2005 from 1990 and in that same timeframe corporate profits have risen by 106.7% and the average worker pay has only risen by 4.3% which is not even keeping up with inflation.

I am in NO WAY advocating that we should limit CEO pay that should be up to the shareholders and their boards – but what I am saying is that the working men and women of this country are getting the shaft and it is time we act. We act by allowing them to collectively bargain for their rights and pay.

Were it not for Labor Unions we never would have had a 40 hour work week, we never would have had “over-time”, Family Medical Leave Act, we never would have had job safety standards to keep employees safe… and the list continues.

In my estimation for over 20 years we have seen a constant erosion of the rights of the working men and women of this great country and we have seen a huge rise in the power of the corporate elite. I think you have to look no further than the recent debates over the US Automobile industry and their problems. Republican after Republican lined up to talk with anyone that would listen to blame all the faults of the US Automobile industry on their line workers! They also joined a chorus demanding that the employees take pay cuts – meanwhile the corporate executives continue to fly in their corporate jets, and spend lavishly. The simple truth here is that it takes two people to enter into a contract and Management signed on to these labor contracts along with the workers – they all agreed in good faith. And in the case of the workers – they agreed for their futures. We are talking about their differed compensation via their benefits packages including their pensions. How can a 70 year old who spent 30 years “on the line” working hard with the promise that they would have benefits and a solid pension be forced to give that up or accept LESS than what they agreed to… they honored their “DEAL” they put in their 30 years, did a good job and while they were getting a pay check – PART of that pay check was the promise of their pension and benefits to continue.

Over these past 20 years we have seen a HUGE re-distribution of wealth – from the working class up to the super rich. Employers have fought tooth and nail to prevent labor unions from entering their shops, and this doesn’t have to be a win lose situation. The fact of the matter is the union employee wants their company to succeed, they want them to be successful – they just want to be treated fairly. Unions also help the employers – oftentimes they self police - dealing with poor performing employees, dealing with training issues and helping find solutions to disputes. While it may cost the employers a bit more, the benefits are long lasting.

Union employees…
• Are more productive
• Are better trained
• Are more responsible (lower number of sick days)
• Tend to STAY LONGER in their job – Less Job-Hopping

The Employee Free Choice Act simply gives workers, not their employers, the choice in how they choose to form unions: either after a majority of workers sign a card in support of the union or through a secret ballot election. And that is the key – THE WORKERS could choose. CEO’s and the Chamber of Commerce oppose this simply because it will give workers a better chance at organizing and forming a union.

You cannot escape the fact that the Republicans and Business interests are completely lying about this bill. This bill in no way prevents a secret ballot, and they know this. Perhaps that is why they have hired a P.R. firm to spearhead their campaign. They hired Rick Berman a professional muckraker who has made a career of attacking organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the tobacco and alcohol industries.

We must realize that the middle class is an endangered species. More and more of the good paying jobs are leaving this country and being replaced by service industry jobs which are notoriously lower paying jobs without an organized workforce. More often than not these jobs do not offer any meaningful benefits packages such as health insurance – whose lack thereof is the number one cause for bankruptcy in this country.

For additional reporting on this matter check out Rachel Maddow’s show from Monday of this week here:

And more from Rachel from Tuesday Night...

No comments: