January 20, 2009: Workers who try to join our union get threatened and sometimes even fired by employers who want to stay union-free.
|In December, workers at the Smithfield meat plant in North Carolina voted to unionize after a 16-year long campaign. The Employee Free Choice Act would enable more such victories.
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In December, workers at the Smithfield meat plant in North Carolina voted to unionize after a 16-year long campaign.A proposed law called the Employee Free Choice Act would make it easier for workers to join a union—and make employers pay when they break the law.
The Employee Free Choice Act would give workers the right to join a union after a majority of them sign cards saying they want representation. Employers who retaliate against pro-union workers and delay bargaining a first contract would face harsher penalties.
The proposed law has the support of Barack Obama and a majority of new Senators and Congressmen.
What the Law Will Do
Right now, workers who want to organize a union have to go through a lengthy election procedure where employers are free to spread lies about unions, intimidate pro-union workers, and delay the process.
A study by Cornell University researcher Kate Bronfenbrenner found that when workers try to organize, 25 percent of employers fire at least one pro-union worker and 51 percent of employers threaten to close down the worksite.
Even after workers vote to join a union, many employers try to keep workers from gaining a first contract by bargaining to impasse—32 percent of new bargaining units fail to get a first contract within a year of voting for the union.
The new law would strengthen protections for workers trying to organize. Here’s how:
- Workers fired for organizing will get triple back pay, and employers could have to pay up to $20,000 per incident when they break the law.
- The boss must recognize the union after a majority of workers sign cards.
- If the company tries to prevent workers from getting a first contract, the union can send the contract to an impartial arbitrator after one year.
Reversing Union Decline
U.S. unions have been shrinking. In 1980, 23 percent of workers were in unions. Now that number is down to just 12.1 percent.
The Teamsters Union is in a strong position to grow. Our core industries of trucking and warehousing can’t be sent overseas.
Our union has already used card-check neutrality agreements—deals similar to the proposed new law—to bring new members into our union at UPS Freight, First Student school bus drivers, and wastehaulers in Minneapolis. This past year 40,000 new workers joined the Teamsters.
But those companies are the exception, not the rule. “I’ve seen bosses use every dirty trick to try to keep the Teamsters out,” said Enrique Martinez, a union representative with Local 805 in New York, who has participated in several organizing drives.
“They tell workers the shop is going to close down. And they fire the most pro-union workers to scare the rest.”
The new law could make it easier for the Teamsters Union to target the nonunion competition in our core industries—companies like FedEx Freight and Con-way. We need a union plan to make that happen.
“We need to make employers pay when they break the law,” Martinez said. “But even with the new law, organizing won’t be easy. You have to train new members about how the union works and why they’ve got to participate. When members are educated and united, they can fight for contracts that match our Teamster standards.”
One Million Strong
Corporate America has already launched a campaign to stop the new law.
Unions and community groups have launched a national campaign to send one million signatures to the new Congress and President in support of the Employee Free Choice Act.
Our union has joined the effort. You can too.
Click here to sign the petition and find out how you can support the new law and help our union rebuild Teamster Power.