Former Senator and 1972 Democratic Presidential nominee, George McGovern, has in recent years become something of a liberty loving fellow. In his most recent column, he writes about the so-called “card check” legislation currently pending in Congress that would do away with secret ballots for union elections:
As a longtime friend of labor unions, I must raise my voice against pending legislation I see as a disturbing and undemocratic overreach not in the interest of either management or labor.
The legislation is called the Employee Free Choice Act, and I am sad to say it runs counter to ideals that were once at the core of the labor movement. Instead of providing a voice for the unheard, EFCA risks silencing those who would speak.
The key provision of EFCA is a change in the mechanism by which unions are formed and recognized. Instead of a private election with a secret ballot overseen by an impartial federal board, union organizers would simply need to gather signatures from more than 50% of the employees in a workplace or bargaining unit, a system known as “card-check.” There are many documented cases where workers have been pressured, harassed, tricked and intimidated into signing cards that have led to mandatory payment of dues.
Under EFCA, workers could lose the freedom to express their will in private, the right to make a decision without anyone peering over their shoulder, free from fear of reprisal.
I found this exchange between Jonathan Alter and Mickey Kaus fascinating. According to Alter, unions have largely been venal, short-sided, and generally bad for society. Yet he thinks we ought to expand their power and influence in the hope that they will behave in a more enlightened manner. Alter’s concern (in his words, “unskilled workers are getting the shaft”) is of course legitimate, but so far as I can tell his line of reasoning is pretty much the “politician’s logic” from Yes, Prime Minister: Something must be done. This is something. Therefore, we must do it.
But perhaps even Alter is insufficiently appreciative of the value of unions. I know that for a lot of people (including a lot of Catholics), that unions are beneficial to workers and to society as a whole is less a question of fact than an article of faith. My apartment is across the street from the headquarters of a union local, and in front of the building they have erected a giant digital billboard, across which constantly scroll slogans about how if it wasn’t for unions we would all be living in conditions of squalor and near slavery. The actual evidence on the point, however, is not nearly so stark. Continue reading
It appears that the Writers’ Guild of America, which has been striking for better internet residuals for the last two months, has itself been struck. According to the New York Post, the 19 unionized staff members of the WGA’s East Coast branch office are upset about the WGA revising its contract with the workers after negotiation to take out a wage increase.
Seeing the story put me in mind of a recent commentary by Rob Long, on the relations between Hollywood writers and the other, non-creative unions in Hollywood. According to Long, writers tend to be, perhaps understandably, impatient with union rules and restrictions on movie sets, which often slow down production, and are constantly trying to get their production crews to bend or ignore them. I don’t have a dog in the fight between the WGA and the studios, but it does seem to me that any claim to worker solidarity the WGA is now making is undercut by the lack of solidarity they show to other unions generally.
- Animal Rights
- Catholic Social Thought
- Death Penalty
- Double Effect
- Foreign Policy
- Global Warming
- Health Care
- Just Wage
- Just War
- Men and Women
- Nuclear Weapons
- Political Theory
- Quotidian Matters
- Social Security
- Voluntary Associations
- War and Peace