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Labor & Worker Rights Thu Jun 11 2009

The Chamber of Commerce: Fightin' for Workers

My favorite thing about right wing bloggers who are part of the anti-Employee Free Choice Act Talking Point Repetition Brigade is that they don't oppose EFCA for any sound reason--or any reason they could defend past stereotypes of "bullying" by union organizers that hasn't been a thing since On the Waterfront--they oppose it because they've been told that if enacted it will help the Democratic Party as it will "fill union coffers". So they don't oppose it because they're so worried about the working class and the (internationally recognized) human right to organize your workplace. They hate it because they hate the Democratic Party and want to make sure that Democrats won't be able to raise more money from a constituency group. The pretend fear of Italian-Mafia-stereotype organizers "bullying" millions of workers into joining unions (who bullied all those auto and mine workers into those sit down strikes again?) is completely ginned up and, frankly, offensive. Unions don't have the resources or power to "bully" any significant number of individuals into doing anything, much less force a nation of workers to join their unions.

This is not to mention that there is exactly zero evidence of systematic intimidation by union organizers (who tend to be young, post-college idealists and/or former rank-and-file "member organizers"), while there is a resplendent banquet full of meaty, fragrant evidence for initimidation by employers (who hold all the power in the employee-employer relationship).

That's pretty disgusting. And the Chamber of Commerce, which is going to end up spending well over the $100,000,000 they've committed to defeating EFCA, is being looked to by these bloggers, editorialists, and "activists" as their solemn leader in this fight on behalf of statutory non-supervisors in the workplace. Which is unbelievably stupid.

The Chamber of Commerce fights Family and Medical Leave. Fights the minimum wage. Fights OSHA standards that protect coal miners from being maimed and crushed. Argues for gutting the contract rights of guys like Sully the Magical Pilot, who rely on the protections of seniority and employer investment in training to become, you know, good at their jobs.

Do these right wingers actually believe the Chamber of Commerce cares about workers' rights? Maybe. More likely, they are just anti-union in general and are using an affected concern over "workers' rights" to continue the assault on this basic human right (which, if you think about it, is gross). They just wanna hurt the demmy'crats, cuz the demmy'crats are bad.

Personally, I would be all for unions never contributing another penny to national Democrats; but whether or not they do or don't, it doesn't change the fact that the employer-employee relationship is wildly imbalanced, and that American workers do not enjoy a reasonable right to organize their workplace. When Democrats try to defend workers' rights to organize, it's "payback" to their union buddies to "fill their coffers". But when conservatives deregulate every industry, appoint industry officials to oversee the departments that regulate those same industries, create gigantic tax loopholes and massive regressive tax cuts, it's not "payback" or "filling coffers", is it? No, it's celebrating the free market.


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Dave / June 11, 2009 3:21 PM

Dude, you're kidding right? Organized labor went way too far with this legislation by attempting to do away with the secret ballot. Nations without secret ballot elections are usually run by guys in military fatigues who enjoy extremely long terms in office. Among the "right wingers" who are out against this bad policy -- George McGovern!

Ramsin / June 11, 2009 4:46 PM

Dude, I'm not, and as you cite a "fact" that got one of the corporate front groups sued (that EFCA "does away" with the secret ballot), you wonderfully prove my point. EFCA does nothing to the secret ballot--it simply makes it one option. Just as employers can agree to "voluntary recognition" of a union now without an election. So you see, the Talking Points Repetition Brigade has led you astray yet again.

Your crocodile tears for the "secret ballot" are meaningless anyway--what kind of election is it where only one side is allowed to campaign, only one side has access to voter lists, and only one side can, oh, take away voters' ability to feed their families? An unfree, unfair election. Your desire to "protect" that unfair election reflects poorly on you.

Who care what George McGovern thinks? McGovern has been a milquetoast "liberal" with anti-union credentials going back forty years.

So, EFCA doesn't in any way "do away" with the secret ballot--what's argument two?

Dave / June 11, 2009 9:23 PM

Careful, Rasmin, your union card is showing. So are you saying your idealistic union organizer friends aren't going to take the shortest route possible to organizing a workplace? All they need is a simple majority of a work unit to sign union cards and presto, you have an uncompetitive business. But you're right, that's only an option. I'm sure they'll go for a secret ballot 9 times out of ten.

My apologies.

Tery / June 12, 2009 9:39 AM

This article was a total strawman. Unions have pumped hundreds of millions into the "system" too (last election cycle and EFCA effort)! There's reasons why the majority of workers in America don't see a need for unions any more. And a big part of this is that government laws have negated much of the need.

EFCA goes too far on each of its three main points: 1. Union bosses will wind up deciding if they want a secret ballot (yeah - right!); 2. Government will get more involved (like we need that to happen) with the binding arbitration; 3. Why are there no additional penalties against union harassment? (like that never happens - there are videos by employees on YouTube that says otherwise)

Look, there's biases and rhetoric on both sides, to be sure, but this kind of blatant propaganda does little to further your cause!

Good Luck / June 12, 2009 9:48 AM


Multiple polls show that less than 10% of workers who work in non-unionized positions want to be represented by a union. This bill does not have the support of the American people, no matter how you would like to represent it.

You pick some good cherries about what the chamber of commerce does to support coal miners, but what point is protecting coal miners when the larger democratic platform, and therefore union platform, is coordinated to destroy their jobs altogether thru legislation like cap and trade?

"Unions don't have the resources or power to "bully" any significant number of individuals into doing anything, much less force a nation of workers to join their unions"

- I call BS on that point. The SEIU alone spent around $60 milliion dollars to campaign for Obama, and the ties between SEIU and ACORN run so deep they are effectively brother and sister. (Of course, with Obama's deregulation of union financial reporting, who knows where they will be able to funnel money)

When you put into focus that the SEIU is bent on organizing low level healthcare workers, is it any wonder why there is the hurried push for EFCA and nationalized healthcare? If that were to pass, our national healthcare system would in time resemble a union retirement plan that would occassionaly see patients.

ramsin / June 12, 2009 12:37 PM

Look, if you want to oppose EFCA because you think unions are bad for business and bad for the economy, that's fine. I don't agree with you, but we can debate that point.

But don't come around, like the Chamber of Commerce and these corporate front groups, and pretend that its about protecting workers' rights to organize. YouTube videos and anecdotal evidence are nothing compared to the material history of employers actively disrupting workers' efforts to organize their workplace using intimidation and the threat of cutting off their livelihood (when it wasn't actual physical intimidation).

Say, "I don't like unions and EFCA will help unions grow." Fine. We can have a debate there.

Don't say, "I'm so worried about workers' rights," because that's simply not true. My problem isn't that opposition exists--the labor movement is quite used to opponents--my problem is with the crocodile tears these opponents of the labor movement are shedding for "workers' rights".

Polls have also shown that tens of millions of workers--even if its a minority--would join a union if they could.

If SEIU spending $60m on the election amounts to "bullying", what does the hundreds of millions spent by the Chamber and other corporate associations amount to? Big business outspends labor by orders of magnitude.

And I didn't say that unions DON'T spend money on national elections--though however much they spent is minuscule--absolutely--to the comparative amounts spent by corporate associations like the Chamber, Manufacturers, Realtors, Restauranteurs, etc.--I said that I don't care if they do or if they don't, because that has no bearing on the right to organize a union. Personally, I think unions waste the money they spend on federal elections. I'd rather see that $60m spent on organizing new members. But SEIU and ACORN have NO record of physical intimidation of coercion of people to join a union in any systematic way. Go ahead and find me some anecdotes, I'm sure they exist, but you'll always lose that argument, because employers harassment and intimidation of their employees trying to organize is a rich tradition going back more than 100 years.

And yes, I'm a card-carrying member of the National Writers Union-UAW Local 1981 in good standing. Very proud to be a union member.

Good Luck / June 12, 2009 1:50 PM

Wow. A poll from the AFL-CIO's web page promoting EFCA. You've outdone yourself with that credible information.

When you have to tell people how they need to frame an issue, what they can object to and what they cannot, how they can respond and how they cannot, you have lost the argument.

If you need to play tee-ball when everyone else is playing baseball... well, you get the point.

I think part of your problem is that you believe that the existence of a grievance (percieved or not) is justification to make others aggrieved. That is the EFCA in a nutshell.

$60 million is 1/10th of Obama's record setting fundraising effort. If you use the previous record, SEIU's contributions would be 1/5th - and that is just one labor union. Miniscule? Hardly.

From here on out, one cannot seperate big labor from big business in terms of financing the political arena, however big business donates to both sides, where labor is one sided.

SEIU and ACORN have no record of systemic intimidation? Only true if you believe that hundreds of "rogue" members aren't the equivalent of systemic. Mental hurdles, but, you know, its a defense.

Ramsin / June 12, 2009 2:19 PM

GL, no, I haven't lost anything. I haven't told anybody how to frame anything or what they can object to. All I said was that there is no credibility to the claim that the organized opposition to EFCA is based on wanting to protect the right to organize. All evidence shows that employer intimidation is the biggest hurdle to organizing a union. Now the employers are fighting for workers' rights? Please. It's phony.

Again--if the Chamber and your buddies on the loony Ayn Rand right want to have a debate about the utility of unions, that's a valid debate. But it isn't reasonable to say that only mandatory secret ballot elections where one side has all the power and access and the other side has none is the only "fair" way to organize a workplace. It's phony PR spin to mask the fact that the right wants to keep unionization down because they hate unions.

Also, at least I cited my poll--yours was uncited. I'm one-up on that one. (Oh, and here's another--I can't wait to see your poll from one of those Rick Berman astroturf blogs).

You also don't cite these "hundreds" of "rogue" members who are intimidating people into joining unions--because the studies have been done, and there's no evidence of unions systematically intimidating unorganized workers into joining unions. Analysis of NLRB complaints clearly shows that employers, not unions, are doing the intimidating. As though common sense wouldn't make that obvious.

As for labor's giving, who cares? Again; maybe SEIU and whoever else are the biggest givers. What does that have to do with the right of workers to organize a union free of intimidation? You're validating my point: the right wing "activists" who oppose EFCA are not opposing it because they care about workers' rights. They are opposing it because they hate lib'rul demmy'crats.

Good Luck / June 12, 2009 2:23 PM

"Some participants were thrown to the ground by larger SEIUers. One protestor broke through the first line and, finding himself trapped between the two lines, flailed wildly. Former Labor Notes office manager Dianne Feeley, a retiree from American Axle, was pushed and fell, cutting her head, and was treated at an emergency room."

"“SEIU Members Stand Up for the Future of the Labor Movement and the Interests of All Workers.” SEIU Vice President Mary Kay Henry praised the demonstrators."

So there you have it, an organized and violent exchange with a union who the SEIU has competed for the right to organize the same set of workers.

Ramsin = no credibility

Ramsin / June 12, 2009 2:27 PM

See GL, this is why we can't stay civil. Why do you have to go after my credibility? Do you really think that citing one anecdote proves that unions have sophisticated operations that bully and intimidate unorganized workers into joining unions? Because some SEIU and CNA staffers (both unions, by the way) got into a fight at a pro-labor media conference? Really? You can pull up hundreds of anecdotes--show me the data.

I won't go so far as your inability to do anything but cite anecdotal evidence so far compromises your credibility.

Good Luck / June 12, 2009 3:01 PM

You agree that anyone can pull up hundreds of supporting anecdotes. Do you know what that is called?


BTW, if two unions are willing to go to blows at a pro-labor media conference, that just highlights what they are capable of when there is something valuable on the line.

Game. Set. Match.

ramsin / June 12, 2009 3:04 PM

nope. hundreds of anecdotes when you have generations worth of data at the NLRB and tens of thousands of complaints per year is nothing. not data. game set match.

You still have not cited any data anywhere at any point. only referred to polls you won't cite and anecdotes you can't back up.

And no, that union staff got into a fight doesn't say anything about whether union organizers intimidate workers into joining unions systematically, habitually, or anything else, the same way one crazy Republican volunteer carving a B into her face and blaming it on an Unidentified Black Male says anything about the mental state of Republican volunteers.

I've cited data--you haven't. You keep bringing up nebulous or non-germane anecdotes. You always do this.

"Game set match."

John Beerman / June 12, 2009 3:35 PM

Since you mentioned it, I went to the US Chamber's site and found this letter you can send to the folks in Congress if you have a spare moment: Reaching out to your elected officials is the best way to defeat this.

Tery / June 12, 2009 4:24 PM

ACORN? ACORN!!?? I just can't believe anyone would really want to mention them as a point of credibility!

Look, there may be certain things in Taft-Hartley that could be changed. Small biz people I've talked to admit some of this, but while they think perhaps things are a little tilted a few degrees away from unions right now, they think EFCA is the equivalent of tilting it toward Big Labor about 180 degrees!

Frankly, I thought EFCA, when I first heard of it, couldn't really be a serious effort. It seemed like maybe it was a negotiation ploy, that would be quickly discarded in favor of a much more reasonable compromise. If this was the case, business (not just infamous "Big Business," but small biz too) would not be fighting so zealously against it! But now we find that Big Labor really does want to shove this unpopular thing down everyone's throat, regardless of what the economics look like. And they think they have bought the right politicians to do it.

Yeah, I know, you can cite favorable studies, but I can cite other unfavorable studies. They point being, in order for this to be a win-win, we need to carefully consider both sides of the issue, and make some intelligent choices (and compromises), and move forward. Oh wait, did I say intelligent? I forgot that Washington politicians were involved! LOL!

ramsin / June 12, 2009 4:39 PM

I didn't "cite" ACORN as a point of credibility. I just asked for proof that they've been involved in systematic intimidation of workers to coerce them into joining a union.

I think where we fundamentally disagree is this: I DON'T believe that every worker should be a union. I DO believe that every worker who WANTS to be a union, should be able to EFFORTLESSLY form one in their workplace. People don't make the decision to unionize lightly--the same way they don't make the decision to switch party affiliation lightly. So if people are pushed to the point where they feel unionization is the only option they have left, they shouldn't have to engage in a death struggle with management to organize a union.

Employers "resist" unionization through intimidation and a one-sided process that allows the employer to campaign, reward anti-union employees and punish union activists, gives only them acccess to employee lists, and otherwise dominate the "campaign", and then, even when workers successfully organize, they bargain in bad faith so the workers never get a first contract. These things are all documented.

Unions are about collective bargaining for wages and benefits. It's not about political contributions or strikes or revolutions. It's a business arrangement whereby statutory non-supervisors can have a say in workplace conditions and compensation in a legally binding way. Workers should be free to associate to bargain for the best deal possible--when a CEO does that we call him a tough negotiator. When workers do that, they get fired.

Tery / June 12, 2009 5:12 PM

So, Ramsin, is this accurate to say about your position:

Unions = all good

Business = all bad

ramsin / June 12, 2009 5:26 PM

Not at all. I'm all for competition and wealth creation. Unions are a great defense of capitalism--its part of the reason a lot of the revolutionary socialist movements turn on unions (or are outright hostile to them). Unions give workers a chance to redistribute wealth at the point of production, in the workplace, rather than using the coercive power of the state to redistribute wealth. So the redistribution happens in the workplace, in a business negotiation between two parties, rather than being coerced by the state in the form of higher taxes and entitlement spending.

With a strong, democratic labor movement, the need for state power diminishes. But you can only have a strong, vibrant labor movement if the right of workers to freely associate is unabridged, either by the state or by other actors in the economy (like their employers).

And no--I have lots of criticisms of unions, particularly the lack of internal democracy, and their myopic ties to the political process, and I will be making those criticisms in this space in the coming months.

Harry Hood / June 12, 2009 6:31 PM


I sincerely hope your constant reiteration of this argument gets through to at least one of these mooks. As someone who currently works in an industry that fires entire staffs for trying to organize, I fully understand the need for the EFCA.

Keep in mind, mooks, that I am a business man in my industry. I would not be organizing myself, but I do feel that people should be able to utilize the option without fear of losing their job.

And mooks, when trying to argue with someone, it's one thing to use the same old fucking argument day in and day out, but at least try to stay on topic.

Tery / June 12, 2009 7:46 PM

Harry: Please go to

and kindly inform us which definition of "mook" you're wanting to convey. Oh, and yes, you might want to emulate your advice to "stay on topic!"

Ramsin: Thanks for clarifying that some. My point is in always trying to make the other side and their motivation to appear wanting, misguided, or plain evil, one weakens their own case.

Someone conveyed this analogy to me this week regarding Christians always arguing whether God is three or one. He said it's like two people looking at the same house - one from the front and the other from the back. The person in the front sees a house nicely appointed, with the finest stone. The person viewing the back sees a ramshackle place that looks completely run down. These two get to talking one day and this house comes up in their discussion. The person in front says, "Isn't that just the most gorgeous place?" The other fellow says, "You've got to be kidding!" From their the conversation degrades into name calling and ultimately fisticuffs!

The point is they were both viewing the same house from different perspectives. Both of their perspectives were true. One calling the other a "mook" (proverbially speaking) doesn't further the discussion whatsoever (I know, it wasn't you).

Be we humans continually do this when discussing potentially complex subjects. We take what could be a fairly simple solution, and move it far beyond reach because of our dogmatic adherence to the way we see things. Isn't this rather silly, to put it mildly?

When we get to the point of acknowledging this, then progress can begin. But I suspect the two sides in this thing will just keep buttin' heads, and pointlessly deriding the other side. In that environment, the politicians step in and most likely give us something that doesn't work, and neither side wanted!

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