Part of it is what Peter Ferrara wrote in the American Spectator just the day after I wrote my piece on Senator Specter and the EFCA. The misrepresentations of history, distortions of polls and statistics, and outright lies in Mr. Ferrara's article are too numerous to list. Labor unions are responsible for helping bring workers the 40 hour work week, cost of living raises, overtime pay, and vacation/sick pay. From Mr. Ferrara's writing, however, one would assume labor unions were directly responsible for the credit crisis and our current economic woes, despite the fact that I am unaware of any Teamsters working on Wall Street. Mr. Ferrara writes about health coverage and paid family leave as if these were bad things that no sane employee would want.
The real parties responsible for the weakening of American industry are the leaders of American industry. The outsourcing of manufacturing jobs has put thousands of people out of work and turned industrial towns into ghost towns. The same companies that are responsible for this job loss have asked for government money, because their problem is not a problem of production costs: it is a problem of failing to make a product that Americans want to buy and putting a price tag on it that Americans can afford. Automoible prices have skyrocketted even as Detroit has dumped workers and shifted manufacturing to Mexico, and yet Ford and GM are surprised no one buys their cars? No one can afford to buy their cars!
Mr. Ferrara's arguments are terribly weak. This is a typical paragraph of his article:
Unions also routinely suffer corruption. Dues are diverted for the personal gain of union leaders. Union pension funds are looted. Check out this history yourself as well.
Perhaps Mr. Ferrara should, himself, read the history of what has been going on in the banks and on Wall Street. I'm pretty sure I remember hearing about corruption. Yet he attacks unions and argues that business is the best defender American workers can have. He continues to claim (as all the opponents of the bill claim) that the EFCA robs workers of their right to vote by secret ballot. This is not true. It is a pure lie. The law does not prevent a secret ballot. It allows a petition in cases where employees believe that their employer will take measures to prevent or influence a union vote. Mr. Ferrara claims that in half of all union elections, unions are voted down.
This sadly is true, but it is not because of the free choice of workers. It is because of the union busting powers given to corporations by state 'right to work' laws and 'at will' employment agreements.
Unions give workers the power to bargain collectively instead of singly. A lone worker, arguing with the human resources representative in a corporate office, is at a significant disadvantage in negotiating. He has no advocate or support, and the company has the power to fire him if his attempt to advocate for his own interests cross whatever line they wish to draw. I have been in this situation, alone and knowing that I have no power to do anything to defend myself against clear injustice. I wonder if Mr. Ferrara has.
While Mr. Ferrara's article admittedly makes me quite angry, it is not the only reason that I am writing. I made the attempt (which I admit to knowing was futile) to lobby my state's two senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, to vote for the EFCA. To the credit of both senators, I received replies. To the discredit of both senators, these replies were entirely dismissive of my concerns and extremely personally condescending.
This is the reply of Senator Alexander:
Thank you for getting in touch with me and letting me know what's on your mind regarding the rights of workers.
All Americans should have the same freedom to work. I believe that working Americans should have the choice to join a labor union or not join a labor union. I also believe that workers should have the right to decide important issues through the use of a secret ballot.
There are few more fundamental rights than the secret ballot, whether it's a vote for president, mayor, or to unionize a workplace. American workers - particularly in right-to-work states like
- deserve to be able to vote their conscience without having to worry about potential retaliation. Tennessee
You don't have to be a labor lawyer to know that peer pressure and outright intimidation are often factors in unionization campaigns. The secret ballot grants workers the freedom to make their decision on the merits, rather than pressure from union organizers or management. That is why I joined as an original cosponsor of the Secret Ballot Protection Act, and will continue to oppose legislation that would allow a workplace to be unionized simply by the gathering of signatures from a majority of employees.
I'm glad you took the time to let me know where you stand, and I'll be sure to keep your comments in mind as this issue is debated in Washington and in Tennessee.
As you can see, Senator Alexander essentially repeats conservative talking points while telling me that he cares deeply about the rights of workers and is only screwing them over for their own good. I don't think his good intentions will help them very much. He is not only opposed to the ECFA but he is a co-sponsor of the grossly misnamed Secret Ballot Protection Act, because he believes the American worker needs to be protect from union tyranny so much that American corporations must be granted more union-busting power than they already possess.
Worst of all, Senator Alexander has the gall to claim that 'right to work' laws are good for workers. Perhaps Senator Alexander is unaware of this fact, but 'Right to Work states' have the lowest real wages and most crushing poverty rates in the country. Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina, and Tennessee are not precisely known for their large and prosperous working class. He is greatly concerned about workers' right to vote to unionize by secret ballot, but appears unconcerned that those who attempt to organize union votes are frequently fired for the attempt. What about their 'right to work'?
At least Senator Alexander actually understood my point of view, however. Senator Corker either did not, or failed miserably in an attempt to be 'cute' with his reply.
Dear Mr. Richards,
Thank you for taking the time to contact my office with your opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act. Your input is important to me, and I appreciate the time you took to share your thoughts.
I agree with you that the various card check legislative changes that have been proposed would amend federal labor law in ways that take them back a hundred years. Chief among these is the Employee Free Choice Act. It would allow union leaders to strong arm and pick off workers one by one, intimidating them into signing cards to organize a union. I do not believe that most Americans or most union workers who truly understand what this bill means would support it. This "card checking" would end the 72-year precedent whereby workers are guaranteed the right to unionize through federally supervised secret ballot elections. The right to secret ballot has been something that we have practiced since our birth as a country.
On June 26, 2007, I voted against moving forward on H.R. 800, the Employee Free Choice Act of 2007, a bill that was passed in the House of Representatives two years ago. The motion failed, effectively stopping the Senate consideration of the bill at the time. More recently, Senator Kennedy of Massachusetts introduced a new version of the Employee Free Choice Act, S.560, on March 10th, 2009. The bill is currently before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Please know that I will continue to oppose any such card check legislation as we move forward in Congress.
You may be interested to know that on February 25, 2009, I became an original co-sponsor of S.478, the Secret Ballot Protection Act of 2009. This bill, as the name implies, would guarantee American workers the right to a secret ballot vote on whether or not to form a union. As with current law, these elections would be overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. Action has not yet been taken on S.478, but I look forward to supporting this bill should it be brought to the Senate floor.
Thank you again for your letter. I hope you will continue to share your thoughts with me as I serve you in the United States Senate.
United States Senator
Anyone reading this should know by now that I most certainly do not believe the ECFA is the chief threat to workers' rights in this country, nor am I particularly threatened by card check. After I made the earnest request that he reconsider his position, Senator Corker instead gloated about the votes he has made to continue to allow a company to deprive me of my civil rights with gleeful pride. Suffice it to say that I certainly do not believe that Senator Corker is serving me in the United States Senate. He's serving the people who fired me when my girlfriend was hospitalized and required care. At least 'Lamar', or whomever on his staff wrote the reply for him, actually read what I wrote to him.
If you live in Tennessee and you work for a living, you should be aware that Senators Alexander and Corker believe your interests are best served by serfdom.
My girlfriend's employment agreement was updated recently, to include a policy stating that her employer will fire her if they feel her conduct on her own time, away from the workplace, when she is not on their clock 'reflects poorly' on them. Corporations are now seeking to deprive people of their civil rights off the job, as well as on the job.
Yet Mr. Ferrara, Senator Alexander, and Senator Corker believe that the biggest threat to the rights and livelihood of working Americans, in these difficult economic times, is organized labor.
The term 'out of touch' has been ridden into the ground. So I am just going to suggest that the three gentlemen are out of their minds.