Posted by Thomas Nephew on August 3rd, 2007
Actually, I don’t even have one. And if I did, I hereby officially assume he wouldn’t want to kick it.
But I do know Mr. Berman is the director of the Center for Union Facts (CUF).* And CUF ran a full page ad yesterday in the Washington Post with the screaming headline Why Do Union Bosses Want To Eliminate Secret Ballot Votes?,” so turnabout seemed fair play — unions don’t want any such thing either.**
While the Employee Free Choice Act did envision a “public petition process“, the bill did not rule out secret ballot votes — it simply added an option promising less stress and fear about supporting union representation. If anyone is guilty of “coercion and intimidation,” it’s unionbusting companies like Wal-Mart and Smithfield, who don’t hesitate to threaten workplace closures or bring in immigration raids to undermine pro-union workforces. Studies indicate workers feel less coerced by co-workers under the so-called “card check” or “majority signup” process than under the secret ballot one.
As I wrote in June, imagine if your mayor could credibly threaten you with shutting down the city if his opponent were elected. Imagine if he could make you come to a meeting — just with him, not his opponent — where he told you that. That’s the kind of “election” workers are routinely faced with in this country.
The ad seems strangely timed at first — corporations and their shills like CUF have won the battle of the Employee Free Choice Act, by virtue of a Republican minority blocking the 60 votes needed to cut off debate in the Senate. But maybe that’s just it — this was a popular bill. There may be a lot of Senators squirming at the thought of defending their quiet assassination of a bill giving working people a fighting chance at union representation. Enter CUF with a lavish media deception campaign, to try to take the pressure off.
It’s also telling that the ad specifically targets the UFCW — one of the most active unions today, with a long-running dispute at Smithfield Tarheel meatpacking plant.*** But if the UFCW doubts there’d be a truly fair secret ballot election at that plant, they’re not alone — no less a group than Human Rights Watch needed a 185-page report to document all the abuses, including labor elections abuses, it found at that plant.
No doubt there are workers who oppose unionization for one reason or another, and the two people quoted in the ad may be among them. But as Nancy Pelosi said recently in a different context, data is not the plural of anecdotes. The card check mechanism of the “Employee Free Choice Act” was and is a good idea for workers who want a real chance at forming a union local — free of anti-union meetings on company time, free of threats of losing their job, free of threats of losing their workplace.
* NOTE: “director of..” link leads to a fact sheet assembled by American Rights At Work. See also “Worth Reading” on this blog for more on CUF and a link to a very detailed post by Betsy Angert (“Be-Think”) about the organization.
** See, e.g., AFL-CIO’s Ten Key Facts about the Employee Free Choice Act: Workers can still vote under the Employee Free Choice Act. At any time, if 30 percent of the workers want an election, they can have one. And once they have a union, workers also vote to elect their union representatives.
*** I’ve followed the Smithfield Tarheel story on this web site since late 2006. I’m unfamiliar with the Arizona Basha’s grocery chain story — but even judging by CUF’s own blog, the Arizona quote on the ad seems misleading. The UFCW drew attention to substandard products allegedly sold at Basha’s — but there’s no evidence in articles they link to that workers were personally harassed or intimidated, as the ad implies, much less that anything of that sort was directed by the UFCW.