In the Bend Bulletin, local bus driver Bill Groesz wrote an op-ed arguing for an end to employer intimidation tactics and for more democratic union elections. (Sorry, online only for subscribers.)
Previously, the Bulletin's editors had editorialized against such reforms - saying:
"We have no idea how frequently such behavior [employer intimidation and harassment of workers who try to organize] actually occurs."
Well, Bill Groesz's column shares what happened - right here in Oregon:
Most of us like to hear both sides before casting our votes. But like most union elections, this was hardly democratic. The company deluged us with anti-union memos. They communicated with us as much as they wanted to on the job site, but those of us who wanted to discuss union possibilities could do it only on our breaks -- but only one employee is allowed a break at a time. Any notices we left on the job site were promptly removed.
Worst of all, they threatened us with the possible loss of our jobs should we go union. Some pro-union workers saw their hours cut, and supervisors were shouting that “they’d all be fired and replaced.”
Why did Bend bus drivers want to create a union?
Unfortunately, working non-union can lead to poor working conditions like those we faced as bus drivers: Erratic scheduling that reduced our income, last-minute weekend plan changes, and embarrassingly, being told to relieve ourselves “behind a tree or bush” instead of having real bathroom breaks.
Fear is a powerful anti-motivator for unionization and political action, but Groesz isn't deterred:
I also hope that I will not be fired for writing this opinion piece. Statistics show that across the country, one in five pro-union workers is fired during an organizing drive. That would make my chances 20%. No one has done a study of how many pro-union workers are fired after writing their story in the local newspaper.
That’s pretty scary, considering I’ve just undergone treatment for cancer and can’t afford to lose my health insurance.
So, what reforms are being considered by the 2007 Legislature?
Because of what we experienced, some of us drove to Salem to testify in support of the Oregon AFL-CIO’s bills. Here’s why:
HB 2893, the Worker Freedom Act, will allow Oregon workers to choose not to attend mandatory meetings on politics, religion or union organizing campaigns. This bill would have helped my fellow bus drivers, who were forced to attend stressful meetings in small, crowded rooms where company executives would try to persuade them not to join the union.
HB 2892, the State Financial Accountability Act, would ensure that Oregon’s taxpayer dollars are used to pay for programs – like better bus service – instead of paying high-dollar consultants to wage a campaign against workers.
HB 2891, Majority Sign-Up, would allow workers to have their union recognized after a majority of them signed cards saying that they were choosing the union. This process is already legal and in use with success here in Oregon.