Corporate America Readying Assult Against Pro-Worker Legislation
by Jeff Dinelli
As AlterNet's Joshua Holland points out in today's excellent piece, currently the largest share ever, throughout recorded history, of America's income goes to profits while the smallest share goes to workers. There is a bill looming called the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which figures to be a massive throw-down between corporations digging in their heels to preserve business as usual and the middle to lower class workers -- ordinary folks who see rising gas, food, utility, college tuition, etc. prices rising while their paychecks don't budge -- who want to have the freedom to join a union (80% of all employees are paid by the hour in this country, and union workers make some 30% more than their non-union counterparts when benefits are figured in). Corporate America is mobilized, as we've seen with Wal-Mart telling its supervisors how dangerous Democrats are and insurance signs mocking Obama. Their lobbyists are right now raising millions of dollars to support GOP candidates.
Last year the bill breezed through the House and passed in the Senate, but of course the latter did not reach the magic 60 votes to combat a filibuster and W was waiting with his big red pen. Barack Obama voted for it, John McCain against, FYI (in fact, I think Obama helped write the thing). Corporate America is freaking out at a possible Obama presidency and more Dems joining Congress. CEOs staring eye-to-eye with their workforce? That's the stuff nightmares are made of for these fat cats. A large majority of Americans are most concerned about the economy and believe we're on the wrong track. Needless to say, Corporate America does not share these sentiments.
Holland points out that there are some 3 million full-time working American families living beneath the poverty level, and half of those families lack health insurance. A thriving labor movement would force politicians, from D.C. to the local level, to deal with those stats, and the problems of rising consumer prices and stagnant wages. Gaps between rich and poor, men and women, young and old, would narrow. For decades (coinciding with the weakening of unions in the '70s, Holland argues), all but the top 10% of American workers have been going nowhere fast. If you're like me and work in a business that requires talking to ordinary people of your community every day, you hear the stories. People are hurting.
It's not easy to organize. My last job was working in the front office of a manufacturing plant where a couple of employees were talking to union reps outside of work. Word spread, and the owners held a mandatory meeting with all 90-some employees, and gave everyone a long, steady line of anti-union bullshit. Holland points out in his article that nearly every workplace in the country does this, along with giving supervisors talking points to argue with any grunt who may let the word "union" slip from his or her lips.
Holland explains the essence of the EFCA:
The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) is simple: It beefs up penalties for employers who violate workers' rights under the law, creates a mediation and arbitration system for disputes, and allows workers to form a union if a majority simply sign a card saying they want representation. This bill alone won't reverse the long decline of American labor -- union organizers say more is needed to create a truly level playing field -- but it would be a huge step in the right direction.
There will be a massive right-wing noise machine blasting the EFCA, a potentially historic bill that, if passed, against all odds, would change the face of the country.