Monday, May 01, 2006

Union-Busting Without Borders (Harry's Place)

An appropriate May Day message from Gene at "Harry's Place"
May 1, 2006

For workers' rights everywhere

Democratic trade unions are the bedrock organizations for the defence of workers' interests and are one of the most important forces for human rights, democracy-promotion and egalitarian internationalism. Labour rights are human rights. The universal adoption of the International Labour Organization Conventions — now routinely ignored by governments across the globe — is a priority for us.
--The Euston Manifesto

Basic stuff, I think. And yet-- though the circumstances are very different-- it's not only in places like Iran that workers are struggling for even the most basic rights.

Current US labor law makes it ridiculously easy for employers to thwart efforts by workers to organize unions. Intimidation and endless legal delays are commonplace, and penalties for violating the law are laughable.

Surveys indicate that tens of millions of nonunion American workers would join unions if they felt free to do so.

Organized labor has been lobbying hard in recent years for a bill in Congress-- the Employee Free Choice Act-- which would assure workers the right to choose union representation without intimidation and delays. The act would require employers to recognize a union after a majority of employees sign authorization cards. It also would provide for mediation and arbitration of first-contract disputes and authorize stronger penalties for violation of labor law when workers seek to form a union.

As of now, sponsors of the bill are just three short of a majority in the House of Representatives (215 supporters out of 435). In the Senate, 42 of 100 members are sponsors. (For those who like to make the lazy argument that there is no real difference between the major American political parties, it's worth noting that virtually all the sponsors are Democrats.)

Needless to say, President Bush is not among the supporters of the EFCA. And if it did pass, he would be unlikely to go against the wishes of his corporate supporters by signing it. But it's important to keep the issue alive for when there will be a more worker-friendly Congress and President.

Meanwhile, proving that anti-unionism know no borders, The Independent reports that the American mega-retailer Wal-Mart forced its British subsidiary Asda to renege on an agreement to recognize a union at the company's distribution network. Wal-Mart also goes to tremendous lengths to keep its American employees "union free."

We at Harry's Place frequently point out the hypocrisy of those on the Left who denounce repressive practices of Western and pro-Western governments while excusing "anti-imperialist" regimes which do the same or worse. It's also worth noting the hypocrisy of those on the Right who support labor struggles in countries like Iran (and, in the 1980s, Poland) while turning tepid or hostile when the struggles are closer to home.

Posted by Gene at May 1, 2006 11:15 PM | TrackBack
May 1, 2006
May Day Greetings


Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest
Eight hours for what we will;
Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest
Eight hours for what we will.

Posted by Harry at May 1, 2006 07:50 AM | TrackBack