Yes, unions won. We won for all Oregonians.

By Tom Chamberlain of Portland, Oregon. Tom has been President of the Oregon AFL-CIO since November 2005. He was a Portland fire fighter for 27 years.

To hear some reporters and legislators tell it, unions got everything we wanted this legislative session.

First, though we had a great session, we left with some bruises just like everyone else. Among other things, our State Financial Accountability Act (HB 2892), which forbids state contractors from using taxpayer funds on union organizing drives, died in the Senate Rules Committee but will be back again. And of course, voters will have the chance to pass Healthy Kids in November.

But here's the dirty secret the news reports and Ted Ferrioli won't tell you: Most of what unions fought for will benefit far more than our members. Most of what we fought for will benefit the state as a whole.

Our philosophy is that good jobs build strong communities. If you agree, then we hope you like what we did this session. Let's look at what unions fought for and won in 2007:

Good jobs:

Strong communities:

Of course, it took a village to make these victories a reality, and there's no way I could list every citizen, legislator, lobbyist and organization that did the enormous amount of work necessary to get these bills over the finish line. It was a good session for working families, and we're proud of how we contributed.

Remember, less than two years ago, because of changes at the national level in July 2005, the Oregon AFL-CIO was split nearly in half: 40% fewer members. 40% less money. Near-total staff turnover.

That's why I'm pretty damn proud of what we and our members fought for and helped win this session. Alongside a slate of superstar leaders and legislators, we helped build a brighter future for Oregon.

So when you hear that the sky is falling because unions got their way, remember: We may have 145,000 members, but we worked hard because we believe that good jobs and strong communities benefit us all.

Comments

  • Jesse B. (unverified)
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    Thanks for the Higher Ed. help. We appreciate it.

  • (Show?)

    Damn straight. You SHOULD be proud.

  • anon (unverified)
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    Tom, can you tell us what Democrats in the legislature and/or what Democrat interest groups were actually responsible for killing SB27?

  • (Show?)

    anon:

    There are a number of good bills that didn't make it to a vote. One of those was HJR 43, which would have allowed voter registration up until Election Day (the same as updates to your registration are allowed now).

    As much as we all may hate it, there's only so much time to get things done. As such, it's common practice to not bring bills to the floor for a vote unless it appears you have enough votes. They try to keep them in committee until then. This helps to ensure the time spent on the House/Senate floor is used to its best. After all, every minute spent on the floor is a moment they aren't in a committee hearing listening to tesimony, out in their district hearing from constituents, etc.

    Yes, we'd all love to see these items come up for a vote so we'd know for sure who supported them and who didn't. But sometimes you have to look at what is the most effective use of the time available. And in doing so, the legislature saved the taxpayers of Oregon nearly a million dollars over the 2005 legislative session.

    However, not bringing a bill to the floor for a vote because there isn't enough support isn't the same as what House Republicans did in the past. They kept bills from coming to the floor that did have enough votes to pass.

  • Silence Dogood (unverified)
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    The 19th century New York lawyer (and Democrat) Judge Gideon J. Tucker said: "No man's life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session." Times have changed. Good thing we have leaders like Tom Chamberlain to take care of us.

  • anon (unverified)
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    Tom, can you tell us what Democrats in the legislature and/or what Democrat interest groups were actually responsible for killing SB27?

  • Miles (unverified)
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    Tom, can you explain to me why the Majority Sign-Up Bill is good for public sector workers? My understanding is that this bill takes away a worker's right to vote in a secret ballot election whether to unionize or not.

    I am a strong supporter of collective bargaining rights, but there are legitimate reasons why someone may not want her workplace to unionize. She may not want to pay union dues, or she may oppose the political causes on which those dues are spent. She may be a younger worker who is rapidly rising through the ranks and doesn't want her promotions to be based solely on seniority, as they are in most union shops. She may enjoy the flexible schedule she has because her boss isn't constrained by a collective bargaining agreement.

    Just as workers have a right to form unions, so should they have the right to oppose a union. I'm all for majority rule in these situations, but this bill strips workers of their ability to either support or oppose a union through a secret ballot. Instead, union organizers simply have to get workers to sign a card -- and they might engage in harrassment, threats, intimidation, or social shunning in order to get the signature.

    I can think of no bill that disrespects a worker's rights more than this bill. Why have you taken the secret ballot away from workers?

  • (Show?)

    Instead, union organizers simply have to get workers to sign a card -- and they might engage in harrassment, threats, intimidation, or social shunning in order to get the signature.

    OK, Miles, let's play BlueOregon trivia -- and yes, you can use Google.

    How many times each year, on average, are unions disciplined for harassing workers? And how many times each year, on average, are employers disciplined for harassing workers?

    C'mon, you can do it. Just start punching stuff into the little box. Come back and tell us the answer - and tell us if it helps you reconsider your comment above.

  • (Show?)

    From the national afl-cio website: http://www.aflcio.com/aboutus/thisistheaflcio/outfront/efca.cfm

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower famously said: "Only a fool would try to deprive working men and women of the right to join a union of their choice."

    Eisenhower was a tough-as-nails general in World War II, a two-term commander-in-chief who presided over one of our nation's most prosperous and vibrant decades. In supporting

    the freedom for America's working women and men to form unions, Eisenhower understood that booming productivity, robust wages and access to the middle class stemmed from a strong labor movement.

    And Eisenhower was a Republican.

    So why did Republican lawmakers in the Senate this week nearly unanimously oppose a bill that would have updated our nation's antiquated labor laws and leveled the playing field for U.S. employees to form unions?

    With the exception of Sen. Arlen Specter from Pennsylvania, Republican senators on Tuesday blocked a move to bring the Employee Free Choice Act to a floor vote. By a 51-48 majority, all Democrats, both Independents and Specter voted to end debate on the bill, which needed a "super majority" of 60 votes.

    In the debate on the Senate floor, Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell repeated the blatant lie that the Employee Free Choice Act would have taken away the secret ballot election from workers seeking to form unions. In fact, it would have given workers seeking to join unions more options by adding the majority sign-up (card-check) process. Under Employee Free Choice, workers could choose between the majority sign-up process and the government-run election process.

    Specter had it correct when he said the long delays between the time an election is held and the time the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) acts makes the whole process “dysfunctional." Specter went on to say: "The NLRB takes so long to act that the election becomes moot—it no longer matters any more. When you look at what the NLRB does, it is totally ineffective."

    More than half of U.S. workers—60 million—say they would join a union right now if they could. But the labor law system is so broken they can't exercise that right. Last year, more than 31,000 workers had their union rights violated by their employers.

    The vitriol expressed by McConnell, Mike Enzi from Wyoming and other Republicans on the Senate floor in opposition to ensuring America's workers have a chance to move into—or remain in—the middle class is breathtaking in its extremism. Rather than express sympathy for America's workers and reach out to them—many of whom are among the nation's 43.6 million without health care coverage and half of whose employers offer no pension plans—these senators made jokes at their expense. Caricaturizing workers as "Joe the leg breaker" and using other demeaning, degrading descriptions, these senators showed they are not made of the same fiber as an Eisenhower.

    In blocking the Employee Free Choice Act from a final vote, 48 Republican senators voted to perpetuate a system in which private-sector employers illegally fire employees for union activity at least 25 percent of the time they seek to form unions.

    In obstructing the Employee Free Choice Act, these Republican senators seek to deny America's employees the chance to raise their wages—union workers earn 30 percent more than nonunion workers—and retire with the knowledge they don't have to keep working full time: 80 percent of union workers are covered by pension plans versus 47 percent of nonunion workers.

    And in rejecting the will of the people—69 percent of Americans say they support the Employee Free Choice Act—these Republicans demonstrated how out of touch they are with America's mainstream, with the millions of employees who seek to improve their lives and those of their families, and with the best traditions of their own party.

    America's workers have the majority on their side. Nearly 1,300 lawmakers in 60 state, county and city legislative bodies passed resolutions supporting Employee Free Choice; 16 governors signed on to a letter backing the bill, as did 115 religious leaders. Workers staged nearly 100 actions in the past week in support of Employee Free Choice, and middle-class Americans generated 50,000 phone calls to the Senate, 156,000 faxes and e-mail messages and 220,000 postcards, including 120,000 delivered to the Senate last week.

    America's workers moved the Employee Free Choice Act bill farther and faster this year than any pundit imagined. The bill passed the House by a 241–185 vote in March and won a majority in the Senate. Our mandate is clear: We must elect a bigger majority in the Senate who will stand with working families, and a president who will champion the interests of working families and sign the Employee Free Choice Act.

  • Silence Dogood (unverified)
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    If there's any confusion about this, here's a reminder about how the Free Choice Act works - a short video from The Union News website, titled "How Card Check Works" ... and a video from Gerald McEntee that praises Oregon for passing our first-in-the-nation state version, "AFSCME's assessment of Senate vote". As Tom Chamberlain would say, "Any other questions?"

  • Tom Chamberlain (unverified)
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    Response to Anon asking which groups or Democrats killed Senate Bill 27?

    Your guess is as good as mine. I do know that SB 329 which did pass included many of the components of SB 27. It did not include the Medicare component. SB 329 was the vehicle that had the most potential to pass and the Oregon AFL-CIO and others pushed the most viable option for success for health care reform during the 2007 Session.

    The second post by Miles questioned Majority Sign-up. Mark S., wrote an excellent response.

    Those folks whose goals are a union-free America, less restraints on corporations, elimination of the estate tax and unfettered trade are the same interest groups that reversed 4 decades of economic growth for working families. I am talking about Corporate America. They understand that there is a $4 billionindustry in America whose sole mission is to stop a union organizing drive. Seventy-five percent of employers hire consultants or attorneys to fight union organizing drives. Employers have unlimited access to the employees at least 8 to 9 hours a day 5 days a week. The consultants train supervisors and conduct meetings with the workers individually to coerce and intimidate. These tactics work. Every 23 minutes an American worker is fired or disciplined for trying to join a union. In 2005, the National Labor Relations Board ruled against employers for 31,358 violations for wrongful discipline or discharge in union organizing campaigns. This answers part one of Kari's trivia question. Majority sign-up for union organizing has been an option since 1935. The employer has the power to use the process or not. Up until the mid-1970's it was used a lot. Recently Cingular agreed to majority sign-up. Since the inception of majority sign-up in 1935, the National Labor Relations Board has determined 42 times that union organizers have stepped over the line and harassed workers in organizing drives using the majority sign up process.

    A 2003 Forbes Magazine issue spotlighted a successful Anti-Union Consulting Firm. This firm bragged that they had won 32 out of 35 organizing drives. One such consulting firm guaranteed employers their money back if the workforce voted to unionize.

    Organizing drives are fast -- 90 days from start to finish. Making it difficult for consultants to implement their strategy.

    Recently, I heard John Edwards speak in Portland. He asked: If you can join the Republican Party, Costco, AARP or the ACLU by signing a card why can't you join a union by signing a card? Answer: Because it impacts the bottom line.

  • anon (unverified)
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    Tom, SB27 needed only 5 votes from the 11 Democrats in the Senate who were not sponsors, and only 9 votes from the 31 Democrats in the House who were not sponsors, to pass. Can you tell can you tell us what Democrats in the legislature and/or what Democratic interest groups were actually responsible for killing SB27?

  • anon (unverified)
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    Tom, (you posted as I was drafting my post). SB329 did include a Medicare component but something very different from the Medicare component of SB27. Why did the AFL-CIO work with a number of groups to send out emails asking for people to call their legislators to support by SB329, but why didn't we receive the same kind of emails from the AFL-CIO asking us to support SB27?

  • Miles (unverified)
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    So the argument from Kari, Mark, and Tom is that because employers harrass and intimidate workers during a union drive, we should support legislation that will make it easier for unions to do the same thing. Nice.

    If there are abuses by employers, and I have no doubt that there are, why aren't we trying to solve them? Why aren't we increasing fines on employers, beefing up monitoring and oversight of union organizing drives? Why aren't we addressing the problem that you say exists, rather than using that problem as an excuse to take away workers' rights?

    In answer to your question, Kari, I don't care what the imblance is. It's not important to the principle -- which is that workers must be able to vote freely and fairly in secret ballot elections. Anything short of that violates their collective bargaining rights. Throwing your argument back at you, are the 42 cases of abuse that Tom cites above acceptable, so long as the other side is higher? What exactly is the acceptable level of union abuse that you think is okay? 50, 500, or 5,000?

    This is a bill that helps unions by taking fundamental rights away from workers. When I said I supported unions, I wasn't lying. My parents were both in unions, and both walked the picket lines during my childhood. I will fight side by side with you to spread the gospel. But this kind of anti-worker bullshit makes me really question your motives.

  • RC Evans (unverified)
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    Thank you, Tom Chamberlain, and others like you who have the courage and sense of moral responsibility to speak out and work so hard in behalf of the workers of Oregon, and the middle class of this country.

    The comments of some reflect the misinformation that corporate America continues to perpetuate. Don't be naive, people! Making it easier for American workers to vote to unionize is actively being fought by those who have an interest in keeping wages low, benefits low, workers' self respect low. This serves the interests of those who selfishly look to maximize their own wealth at the expense of the very workers who carry the load. Look at all the corporate CEO's (and politicians) who fight such bills as the Free Choice Act! What are their interests?

    The current system, which admirably is supposed to protect workers' rights to a secret ballot, is not working! It allows companies to put tremendous pressure and intimidation on employees prior to an election.... we just went through this process this past winter in Central Oregon, and every employee who leaned toward unionizing felt they were in danger of losing their job, felt ostracized, and the pressures were enormous. The pressure NEVER came from the union in any way! It was entirely from the company, which was afraid they would have to pay a fair wage and benefits to it's workers, and would be forced to treat all fairly.

    Keep up the good work Tom Chamberlain, and all who are engaged in helping America's workers unite against the greed and injustice and intimidation tactics used by companies and corporations who will maintain the status quo if they can get away with it. Most have as their goals maximizing their own personal wealth, not concern for the welfare of their employees.

    -Russell Evans

  • PO'D Democrat (unverified)
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    I'm quite willing to assume Miles is pro-worker and pro-union. So let's explore the real issues. His argument rests on his claim:

    In answer to your question, Kari, I don't care what the imblance is. It's not important to the principle -- which is that workers must be able to vote freely and fairly in secret ballot elections.

    Unfortunately, that will NEVER happen Miles, so decency demands that we talk about what actually demonstrates a principled concern for workers in this case. Regardless of whether Democrats or Republicans hold power, corporate interests in both parties will have enough power to make sure It will NEVER be the case that the politically appointees on the NLRB will ever actually take the steps necessary to prevent employers from having even outrageously improperly influence in the election. They will never make it so excruciatingly painful for individuals in management of a company that they wouldn't even think of interfering.

    In real life, not having this measure means workers will always be harassed by management, and the harassment will always take the form of clearly understood implied threats that they will lose their jobs and losing all that goes with that including the loss of home, health care, family stability, etc. Or actually losing their jobs if they are singled out as a union supporter. If the vote fails in the face of that harassment, they are still in the bad working situation that led a majority to sign cards asking for a union ratification vote.

    Conversely, in real life, having this measure means that workers may indeed be harrassed to sign the card. But not significantly more so than if we don't have this measure. Futhermore, if enough sign, the result of such "harrassment" is that the chance for employers to harass them in all the outrageous ways mentioned will be eliminated, and they will immediately have bargaining power which almost certainly will improve their working conditions and economic status. If not enough sign, they are still in the bad working situation that led a majority to sign cards asking for a union ratification vote.

    In both cases, any harassment to sign always exists. It has a potential positive payoff for all if we have this measure. If we don't have this measure there is a new, source of brutal harassment which only has a negative payoff. I think this proves that the only ethical and moral position is support for this measure.

    I do wholly agree with you, however, that we should be radically ratcheting up the jeopardy to employers for interfering in a union vote. It just ain't going to happen. Because the right to vote without coercion in a secret ballot is so sacrosanct, I personally would like to see very high fine (like a percentage of the pre-organizing drive corporate valuation) for every infraction, with preponderance of the evidence being the level of required proof as is standard in civil lawsuits. Do you agree?

    Full disclosure: I'm not in a union, I'm not in management, and there is no union that represents my interests that I could join. And Miles, if you've read the other recent threads about health care reform, like a lot of working folks I know, I'm a Democrat who is mighty PO'D at the AFL-CIO and SEIU for spamming me with email to support SB329, but not doing anything close to that level of outreach for SB27 (I didn't get a single third-party piece of snail mail or email from the AFL-CIO or SEIU), and I'm PO'D at Democrats for blocking SB27. In Kari's whacko world that somehow makes me a right-wing troll, and I'm sure it doesn't make me too popular with Tom Chamberlain or my own Democratic Party right now. I think that makes me a fairly impartial observer to this particular debate though.

  • PO'D Democrat (unverified)
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    Just to clarify. When I said: If we don't have this measure there is a new, source of brutal harassment which only has a negative payoff, I should have said: If we don't have this measure there is the additional brutal harassment by employers, which only has a negative payoff for workers.

  • (Show?)

    Miles wrote: Throwing your argument back at you, are the 42 cases of abuse that Tom cites above acceptable, so long as the other side is higher? What exactly is the acceptable level of union abuse that you think is okay? 50, 500, or 5,000?

    Once again, I suggest you read Tom's trivia answer. That's 42 cases since 1935. 42 cases of union harassment in 72 years. Approximately one every 20 months.

    In 2005 alone, there were 31,358 cases of employer harassment. One every 16.7 minutes.

    You ask, If there are abuses by employers, and I have no doubt that there are, why aren't we trying to solve them?

    Um, that's what majority sign-up does. What's the primary way that workers collectively enforce good behavior by employers? Unions. They form unions.

    Majority sign-up makes it easier to do that. To stop the abuses by the employers.

    You conveniently ignored Tom's quote of the question posed by John Edwards: If you can join the Republican Party, Costco, AARP or the ACLU by signing a card why can't you join a union by signing a card?

    Well, Miles, why not?

    Isn't a union basically a membership organization? Why not allow people to voluntarily sign up with a membership form? (And please don't talk about harassment by unions. Again, that's only happened 42 times in 72 years in this entire nation. That makes it more rare than people getting convicted of espionage.)

  • David Wright (unverified)
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    If you can join the Republican Party, Costco, AARP or the ACLU by signing a card why can't you join a union by signing a card?

    Well, it's not quite the same thing, is it? If I sign a membership card for the Republican Party, that won't force you to belong to the Republican Party to continue to engage in politics. If I sign a membership card with Costco, that doesn't obligate you to shop at Costco. If I join the AARP or the ACLU by signing a card, that doesn't obligate you to donate money to those organizations.

    Isn't a union basically a membership organization?

    No, it's much more than that. As alluded to above, it's not just a matter of one person signing a card to join a club. It's a matter of if enough people sign cards, everyone has to join the club. Or at least, if they don't technically have to join the club (depending on the state), they have to play by the club's rules, they may have to pay club dues (again, depending on the state) and they can't form their own club instead.

    I realize that those of us who have problems with unions are going to have those problems no matter how unions are certified in a given workplace. But certainly there are legitimate reasons why one might consider a guarantee of a secret ballot to be a genuine worker protection, against potential retribution by both the employer and the union. Any employee who is caught on the losing side of a union election, where the employee's stance is publicly known, is at risk no matter how the election turns out.

    Since I'm not familiar with the specific legislation here, is there some provision whereby any employee may demand a secret ballot? Certainly, if no employee raises an objection, I guess I have no problem with the majority sign-up idea. But I do think that if even one employee objects to the very public sign-up process, then a secret ballot election should be a guaranteed right.

  • Steve (unverified)
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    Public employee unions especially did well with the state budget going up 20%. Classroom sizes are the same, but teacher benefits get shored up very well - Mission accoomplished!

    I can hardly wait until the next budget period when we don't have a 20% upside, then we'll get the same tired rhetoric - cut student benefits or raise taxes. Oh wait, the rainy-day fund - I and the legislature forgot!

  • (Show?)

    "Public employee unions especially did well with the state budget going up 20%."

    And they got their pensions curtailed when the budget went down. Quit seeking a scapegoat. This was a recovery budget, 20% up from pathetic levels. And half of that 20% is going back as kicker.

  • Miles (unverified)
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    Isn't a union basically a membership organization? Why not allow people to voluntarily sign up with a membership form?

    Kari, I'm distressed that you don't understand the difference between a voluntary membership organization and a union. Thanks to David for explaining the fundamentals because they're essential to this debate. The fact that in Oregon you are forced to pay union dues regardless of whether you support and/or join the union makes all the difference in terms of why majority sign-up is an abuse of workers. I'm fine with the majority winning in these cases, and I'm fine with non-union members paying mandatory dues, but that majority support must be certified through a secret ballot election. Absent that, you have taken away a worker's right to oppose a union without retribution -- and that is an anti-worker decision.

    As for the imbalance between employer and union abuses, you really are making the case that a certain level of union abuse is acceptable. Even if it's only once every 20 months (and we know that's the minimum, because if anything those abuses are underreported) why would you support legislation that increases the likelihood of that abuse? Why is any union harrassment acceptable? Given that the union is legally obligated to support all union workers, even those who were against them, why should unions be able to know who did and did not support them? Why should they have any more access to that information than employers do? Are you arguing for this bill simply because unions support your candidates and keep you employed?

    Unions should be allowed to form if a majority support the union, free from coercion on either side. I find it inexplicable that those who claim to support worker rights could argue for anything less.

  • (Show?)

    Are you arguing for this bill simply because unions support your candidates and keep you employed?

    No, I'm not. I'm supporting this bill because it's a good idea.

    That said, I suppose I should disclaim.... I host the Oregon AFL-CIO's website, but I speak only for myself.

  • troll finder (unverified)
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    Miles and PO'D Democrat, you two (or one) should find new screen names. You are too obvious about spouting the right wing's focus-grouped anti-union messages and shrouding them in "but I'm pro-union" bull-, um, baloney.

    If you are truly pro-union, you should know that that the right wing's attempt to "protect the secret ballot" has more to do with protecting their corporate right to abuse workers during an organizing campaign than it does to do with their sudden concern for workers' rights.

    If you are truly pro-union and pro-middle class, then you will recognize the difference between a handful of abuses and tens of thousands of abuses.

    There's no institution anywhere that doesn't have an occasional, random zealot. But you deal with it by disciplining the individual who got out of line. Dismantling the whole institution at the peril of the middle class doesn't make sense.

  • wow (unverified)
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    Seems Russell Evans (aka RC Evans above) is one person here who knows what he's talking about. Talk about knowing this stuff first hand. Check it out.

    And thanks for posting, RC Evans. Glad to hear you got your job back.

  • Miles (unverified)
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    Miles and PO'D Democrat, you two (or one) should find new screen names. You are too obvious about spouting the right wing's focus-grouped anti-union messages and shrouding them in "but I'm pro-union" bull-, um, baloney.

    I've never voted for a Republican, even once, I'm active in local progressive groups, and I donate to local Democratic campaigns. But if it makes you feel better to assume that I am a right-wing troll, so be it. I'm not going to spend time listing my bonafides, and you don't seem open-minded enough to understand that liberals can legitimately differ, even on holy grail issues such as unionization.

    Here's the principle that majority sign-up violates, in simple terms: Workers have the right to support and form a union, free from coercion.

    How can a bill that makes it easier to form a union violate that principle? Because that principle has a necessary corollary: Workers have the right to object to a union, free from coercion.

    It is only when workers have both that we have truly protected workers' rights. How can we ensure that workers have both? By harshly punishing any intimidation or harrassment from either side, and by giving workers the freedom to express their views in a secret ballot.

    To those who support majority sign-up, let me ask this: Would you also support a law that allows workers to dissolve their union if a majority signed cards rejecting it?

  • (Show?)

    "Here's the principle that majority sign-up violates, in simple terms: Workers have the right to support and form a union, free from coercion."

    Miles, I don't think you're a troll. I just think you're wrong. :)

    Do you see that you've created the surety that coercion will occur from a card check law? Card check actually holds up the principle you claim it violates--and your unsubstantiated expectation that coercion would be a de facto problem takes the steam out of your assertion IMO.

    As for your question, yes I'd support a decertification vote such as you described.

  • (Show?)

    Would you also support a law that allows workers to dissolve their union if a majority signed cards rejecting it?

    Yes. What was your point?

  • (Show?)

    The Oregon AFL-CIO's Majority Sign-Up bill (HB 2891) protects the workers' right to choose a secret ballot election.

    The process is currently legal and in use in Oregon. This bill simply shifts the choice of whether to use the Majority Sign-Up process from the hands of the employer to the employees themselves. The only way they'd not have a secreat ballot election is if they made that choice themselves.

    In other words, the bill gives workers MORE rights to choose for themselves, not fewer.

  • Miles (unverified)
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    Sargent, who are the "employees" in this scenario who get to choose between secret ballot and majority sign-up? Is it the union organizing the drive who decides whether to submit petitions and ask for an election or get signatures from the majority and do away with the election? Can one employee protest the decision to go with majority sign-up and ask that an election be held? If the decision is in the hands of the union, that doesn't really solve the problem.

  • Miles (unverified)
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    Do you see that you've created the surety that coercion will occur from a card check law?

    Not necessarily. Majority sign-up could operate for decades with no abuse whatsoever. But the new law opens the door to that abuse. Majority sign-up is in the union's best interest, and as Democrats and liberals who depend on the support of unions, we tend to assume that the union's best interest is always in line with a worker's best interests. Here, that's not necessarily the case.

    Imagine a divided workplace with 100 employees, where 45 support unionization and 55 do not. Under current rules, the union organizers have more than enough support to call for an election. But they would lose. Under majority sign-up, they don't have to hold an election. Instead, they collect cards from 45 employees, and then they start working to sway six more to sign on. I'm not assuming they'll do anything illegal here. But Joe and Jane, who are anti-union but work in a small division of 10 pro-union employees, are going to come under daily pressure to sign the card. Joe and Jane may find themselves eating alone at lunch, not getting invited to after-work happy hours, not being asked to join the softball team. After two weeks, they decide to sign.

    So I ask again: If this is about protecting workers, why don't we respect Joe and Jane enough to let them cast their ballots secretly?

  • (Show?)

    "Not necessarily."

    Yes, necessarily Miles, otherwise majority sign-up doesn't violate any principles. If the abuse doesn't happen, then everything's fine, is it not?

    as for "protecting workers," you can't protect them until they're organized, that's rather the point.

  • Miles (unverified)
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    As for your question, yes I'd support a decertification vote such as you described.

    Since you and Kari would support majority sign-up for decertification, why do you think that was left out of the bill? My read of ORS 243.682, as amended by HB 2891, is that it puts into place majority sign-up in order to join a union but keeps in place the secret ballot in order to decertify. If majority sign-up is easier than winning a secret ballot election, which you've all argued that it is, shouldn't employees also be able to use majority sign-up to decertify the union?

    [Keep in mind that I think secret ballot is the way to go in both cases. But if we're giving employees the right to form unions with majority sign-up, we should also give them the right to dissolve them.]

    as for "protecting workers," you can't protect them until they're organized, that's rather the point.

    We're talking about the government here, TJ, not the union. It's the government's job to protect workers rights through labor laws, whether or not they're organized. This particular labor law favors unions by taking away workers rights to a secret ballot. You continue under the mistaken assumption that unions are always good for workers, and that's just not the case. I trust the workers can make that decision for themselves, but only when they have access to a secret ballot away from employer or union coercion.

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    "You continue under the mistaken assumption that unions are always good for workers, and that's just not the case."

    No, I'm operating under the principle that unless the case can be made for unions being BAD for workers in this example, citing that potential is a weak argument against it. Given that employers hold all the power now, you'd better believe that they would watch union organizers like hawks for any coercion.

    I am unaware of any part of the Constitution that says workers have a right to a secret ballot for purposes of organizing. So how you assert that right, I'm not sure.

  • Miles (unverified)
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    I'm asserting a statutory right that existed until this law passed. I guess you're arguing that secret ballots just aren't that important. I wonder if there are other venues to which you might apply that disturbing view?

    Unions can be bad for workers in a number of ways, as I spelled out in my first post (#7 in this thread). If a union can't win a fair election, why should they be able to organize that group of workers?

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    Sargent, who are the "employees" in this scenario who get to choose between secret ballot and majority sign-up?

    This is a very democratic bill. The employees who will be choosing whether they want to collectively bargain for better pay and benefits are the same ones who decide for themselves whether to use the Majority Sign-Up process.

    There's nothing new about this process; the only thing that's new is who gets to choose it. HB 2891 simply says the employees get to choose whether to use it.

    Can one employee protest the decision to go with majority sign-up and ask that an election be held?

    No; that would not make sense. That's like allowing one Supreme Court justice to override a 7-3 ruling. To be the most democratic, it's the whole group of workers who get to decide. Once the group's signatures are in, one person alone does not get to override his or her co-workers' choice.

  • Miles (unverified)
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    Sargent, you're actually making my point for me. The "employees" who get to decide whether to use majority sign-up or hold a secret ballot election are the union organizers. So if you as an employee oppose the union and would prefer to express that opinion in a secret ballot rather than publicly in front of your friends and colleagues, you're shit out of luck. Every one of them will know exactly where you stand on the issue.

    I still find it remarkable that no one else here sees that the principle of the secret ballot is just as important in a union election as it is in local, state, and federal elections. Can you imagine someone arguing that we should elect our Mayor based on a majority sign-up process?

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    Sorry you don't like that one bill, Miles, but I hope you realize that it's unions, not the corporate backers of the "secret ballot" message, who really want American workers to thrive.

    I'm going to sign off here by bringing this back to Tom's point:

    The union agenda closely mirrors what makes America great -- good schools, affordable health care, fair opportunities for people who work hard and play by the rules.

    And I'm really proud to be part of this movement because it's what brought my family into the middle class, and I want to keep that door open for others. Even those who disagree with me. ;)

  • Miles (unverified)
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    The union agenda closely mirrors what makes America great -- good schools, affordable health care, fair opportunities for people who work hard and play by the rules.

    Couldn't agree with you more, Sargent. I support every one of the initiatives that Tom Chamberlain lists -- except majority sign-up. That one they slipped through in order to increase union power at the expense of the individual worker. I'll still donate to union-backed causes, but that bill leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

    Peace out.

  • Robert G. Gourley (unverified)
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    Kari: Isn't a union basically a membership organization?

    Actually not - at least not like the other organizations listed. Especially if the union is involved in interstate commerce.

    None of these other organizations are mandated by law to be governed democratically - with standards set up as to what that means, and what to do if it's not so. This makes things very different for labor unions when compared to any other organization. And within the context of the economy, I like to call labor unions "worker corporations" so they can be compared to the kind of legal requirements placed upon "business corporations" - which are not required to be run democratically. Other differences exist as well.

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