Saturday, 31 January 2009

Dear President Obama

From Johninnit Ni

Congratulations on your historic achievement, and that of your supporters. And congratulations too for coming out so strongly in favour of Employee Free Choice. In the current economic climate, you're going to get a lot of vested interests asking you to slow down on EFCA, so as not to 'burden' business. Please hold your nerve here. To transform America and build your way out of the downturn, you need a strong democratic civil society. And that means strong unions to make change happen in their workplaces and in their communities.

America's attempts to support democratic civil society in countries around the world looks hollow if you don't practice this at home. Please put EFCA in your inbox from day one.
Johninnit Ni, member Union Island SL community

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1 comment:

agitprop said...

This is one of those BIG differences between Democrats and Republicans, who have fought tooth and nail over this provision to allow automatic union recognition if a majority of the people at a given workplace sign up to join it.

This means that if organizers circulate membership cards among the workers (which often must be done secretly, to avoid reprisals) and get enough signatures, the union is in, without having to go through a long and tortuous process of negotiations and calling for a vote, which usually tends to be resisted, contested, manipulated and defied by companies, often by illegal means, including firings and violence.

It may seem like a simple and obvious right, to have a union if a majority want it, but the Republicans have refused to allow this for many years, as part of their general program to do everything they can to decimate and destroy unions, including understaffing and defunding the government agencies that are supposed to investigate and prosecute unfair labor practices by employers.

Democrats, on the other hand, have tended to strongly support workers' rights to organize without being harassed, attacked and fired for doing so, and to hold companies to their contracts, once they do have a union.

While much can be said about the shortcomings of national labor law in the US, and the grossly inadequate nature of many of the unions, whose structure and practice is largely dictated by that law (which was written by corporate lawyers) there are much better prospects for further reforms and improvement there as well, under the Democrats, than under the Republicans.

Having unions, especially under the control of labor laws that still tend to favor the companies and restrict the most effective methods and tactics of unions to organize and represent their workers, may not, in itself, guarantee the ultimate demise of capitalism, heh.

But they are a step in the right direction, and far better than having no unions at all, which the Republicans would clearly prefer. Their attempts to gut and destroy unions and legal protections have consistently been resisted and blocked, when they had enough votes, by the Democrats.

Unions in the US have historically played a major role in fighting against anti worker and anti-social legislation and government policies, including recent strikes that shut down all the ports on the west coast to block arms shipments, and unions tend to raise the wages and benefits across the board for all workers, whether they are in a union or not.

Virtually all of the fundamental benefits and workplace protections that most people take for granted today were hard won by relentless union struggles over many years, which have even included the fielding of mercenary armies by employers, to fight pitched battles with workers who have in turn armed themselves in response to such attacks, and fielded their own guerilla armies to defend themselves and their families.

The Democratic Party, especially since the big polarization that occurred in the late 60's and early 70's, has tended to strongly support the union movement, while the Republicans have consistently reviled, attacked, and tried to destroy it.

I would call that a significant difference between the Democrats and the Republicans, and a reason, in itself, to call off the electoral boycott and vote for the more progressive elements among the Democrats, to tactically block the election of anti-union Republicans.

The extent to which more progressive elements prevail in the coming 2010 and 2012 interim elections will make a big difference in how far and how fast the union movement can be improved and strengthened in the US for the next generation.