Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Faces Behind EFCA

Below are the faces and voices of the real flesh and blood people behind the Employee Free Choice Act. These are your neighbors, friends, and relatives. They go to your churches and synagogues. They are the people who serve your needs in stores. Here they tell their stories, far better than I could, about why they need a union.

They speak about low wages, the inability to afford health care, and the intimidation they face when they attempt to join a union. Companies certainly have a right to tell workers their side of the story and to persuade them not to join a union. But what Wal Mart does goes far beyond that. Wal Mart engages in illegal intimidation of its employees. It is not the only large corporation that does so, but it is probably among the worst offenders.

I will let these employees speak for themselves because they are articulate, compelling, and inspiring in their quest for simple human dignity and a better life for themselves and their families.

The Employee Free Choice Act is not in danger in the House of Representatives, where it will probably pass easily. But it's going to be an uphill battle in the Senate, where any piece of progressive legislation - actually where any Democratic legislation - requires a 2/3 majority to succeed. We need to get 60 votes to prevent cloture in order to pass EFCA. Business and trade groups, as well as conservatives, are bringing tremendous pressure on Virginia's two sentors, Jim Webb and Mark Warner, to vote against it. Last year, Jim Webb was a co-sponsor of EFCA. This year, we are not sure how he will vote on it. If you support the rights and dignity of workers, please call Senators Webb and Warner to let them know you support EFCA and you will support them if they vote in favor of it.

You can reach Mark Warner here and Jim Webb here. For your convenience, below are their Washington, DC addresses and phone numbers.

Mark Warner
459A Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: 202-224-2023
Fax: 202-224-6295

Jim Webb
Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: 202-224-4024
Fax: 202-228-6363

Please drop them a line to let them know you support this important legislation


Brian Kirwin said...

Ya know what I do when a job pays less than I'm willing to accept? I don't take the job. I certainly don't keep the job for 10 years and then suddenly realize the retail industry isn't exactly full of high salaries.

Wal Mart is not exactly skilled labor. Scan products, and customers swipe their own cards. Most transactions aren't even cash. All they have to do is bag the items.

If the workers want a union, I honestly don't mind if they do. They'll just have union dues pulled out of their already small checks to fund political campaigns. Yay Union! That accomplished a lot, didn't it?

Unions are every bit the same kind of "corporation" that Wal Mart is.

My only point is don't take a job at a certain wage, and then complain that it's not enough money.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Brian, as you pointed out, retail clerks are not highly skilled and do not have many choices, just like factory assembly line workers.

But at one time, unions helped them to earn good salaries, pensions, and health benefits. Many of those factory workers were able to feed their families, provide them with good health care, and put their children through colleges.

Collective bargaining and better salaries and benefits gave them and their children the American dream. It could do the same for retail workers.

Today, workers across the spectrum are losing ground. So are middle managers. The only people whose salaries have increased are the very top executives. CEOs salaries have grown by 400 percent while most employee's wages have stagnated.

You cannot tell me with a straight face that only CEOs bring value to business and create profit and that the contributions of their many employees have nothing to do with their success.

Nobody is saying that CEOs shouldn't make good salaries or that their contributions aren't valuable. Nor is anybody arguing for strict equality of wages. Of course executives will always make more money and quite possibly deserve more money because their skills and knowledge are of a higher level and involve greater complexity.

On the other hand, most CEOs negotiate contracts, which cannot be broken. They have lawyers who bargain for their rights and benefits to ensure that they are legally binding.

So, you would basically deny rank and file workers the same chance to bargain for a legally binding contract that their bosses have.

Yet rank and file workers also bring value to their companies. When business is profitable and productivity is rising, some of the fruits of that success should be shared with employees through raises, bonuses, etc.

All to frequently, however, it hasn't been. Instead, the top echelon of management has gobbled up the profits and given themselves the bonuses, golden parachutes, and all the other perks while ignoring the contributions of their employees.

Brian Kirwin said...

"Collective bargaining and better salaries and benefits gave them and their children the American dream. It could do the same for retail workers."

Yeah, or it could turn the retail industry into our current auto industry. Yippie!

msk08 said...

Americans have been under the delusion (propogated by conservatives) that what is good for business is good for the country. Yet if we didn't force businesses to recognize that their practices affect the real lives of real people, what's to stop salmonella from spreading to our food supply, investors being swindled by Ponzi schemes, and the Lilly Ledbetters of the world from being cheated out of equal pay?

A certain degress of protection is needed for consumers and employees, whether by regulation or unionization or whatever. The fact that this is unskilled labor makes no difference. All jobs require a certain skill set; I'm sure there are some astrophysicists who would find waiting tables or driving buses difficult.

To that end, a person who cannot get a better job and dutifully labors in Wal Mart with no exit option or voice option should not be under complete control of the CEOS. I agree that if the CEOs derive their profits from the labor of others, it is incumbent upon them to treat their laborers decently.

Since the new administration has come to the conclusion that the long term health of our workforce is essential to maintaining global competitiveness, I would hope that businesses voluntarily reach that same conclusion by either providing a decent standard of living or allowing unions to negotiate defined benefits.