DOL Sec. Elaine Chao's Lies in the WSJ About EFCA

Cross posted on Daily Kos

An Open Letter to DOL Sec. Elaine Chao:

Dear Secretary Chao,

I find it highly disturbing that a Cabinet secretary of the United States, let alone the leader of the Department of Labor, which is tasked with protecting worker rights and wellbeing would lie so blatantly and carelessly when it comes to the Employee Free Choice Act.

And what is truly infuriating is that the labor movement helped create the very department you have bastardized into a tool for the very corporations it was created to guard against. Today it is clear just how far you are willing to go to protect corporations from workers - instead of the other way around.

I wouldn't be surprised if the anti-union talking points you regurgitated in the Wall Street Journal today were crafted by professional fear mongerer Rick Berman and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. I am surprised that a Cabinet secretary would publicly display her ignorance of our labor laws - both as they are on the books now, and the proposed changes in EFCA.

Your ignorance is either laughable or malicious. In either case, your words and actions call into question your fitness to lead the Department of Labor.

In your WSJ commentary, you say:

It is no secret that maintaining the integrity of free and fair elections depends, in part, on maintaining the right to cast secret ballots. This right ensures that voters are able to express their preferences without undue influence or fear of reprisal. It is also a right recognized in the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights and has long been part of the American democratic fabric.

But perhaps for not much longer. Congress, at the behest of organized labor, is preparing to undercut the ability of workers to vote in secret ballot elections.

Under the "Employee Free Choice Act," which has already passed the House and is being debated by the Senate this week, the rules overseeing how unions are formed would radically change. Currently, union organizers must first win an election. Under this legislation, the privacy of the voting booth would give way to signature drives run by union activists. These activists would be free to knock on any worker's door at home whenever they wish and, once they collected signatures from a majority of workers, the union would be certified, start collecting dues and engage in collective bargaining.

Far be it from a member of the Bush administration to let the facts get in the way of really good propaganda.

The fact is that what the Employee Free Choice Act really does is take the decision for a secret ballot election out of the hands of employers and gives it back to the workers who will choose whether or not to start a union.

And isn't it really more democratic to let the voters actually decide that they need to vote, say, as opposed to having a dictator decide that there must be an election months down the road? In the meantime, that dictator will lock those voters in a room with his hired thought police ("labor relations" hired guns) once a week and feed them all kinds of misinformation about unions. That dictator will fire the leaders of the opposition and threaten anyone who would vote against him.

Hmmmm. Sounds like an Iraqi leader we all used to know. Is that the Bush administration's idea of democracy?

And, by the way madam secretary, card check is already the law of the land. A unit can already gain union certification through card check alone - unless, that is, the employer objects and forces an election. I would expect the secretary of the Labor Department, which governs unions, to know that.

Then there is this little gem:

Without the protection of secret ballot elections, American workers would have no protection from coercion. One does not need to be a scholar on card check to anticipate the pressure and coercion that could then emanate from all sides. Indeed, a former union organizer testified at a congressional hearing recently that she had "personally heard from workers that they signed the union card simply to get the organizer to leave their home and not harass them further."

Well, Elaine, what's stopping employers from coercing employees now? A recent study (PDF) by the Center for Economic Policy and Research, almost one-in-five union organizers or activists can expect to be fired as a result of their activities in a union election campaign. (Read More). The NLRA isn't doing the trick. What is your department doing to protect workers constitutional right to form unions without employer interference?

The fact of the matter is that employees face more harassment eight non-stop hours a day from employers, their private armies and multi-million dollar "labor relations" firms than they do from union organizers.

And that former organizer you mention ... let's find out how much she got paid by Cintas to go to work as a union busting consultant, shall we...

Hardly a reliable witness.

But then again, you seem to be siding with those who would prefer to use ethnic and racial stereotypes to create fear and promote prejudice for the working class, than those who would truly stand for worker rights in this country. Workers aren't afraid of other workers, managers are afraid of workers - and your lies only add to the atmosphere of fear, hatred and mistrust.

Six million people would join a union today if they could. Let them. Do your job or step down. Working people are not as stupid as you may think. They know that corporations and their lobbyists in Washington aren't spending millions of dollars to derail the Employee Free Choice Act because they care about workers - the same workers who are denied health coverage, retirement benefits, and respect. These are the people you are supposed to be protecting, not the bosses.

Tags: Elaine Chao, Employee Free Choice Act, Labor, Teamsters (all tags)


1 Comment

Secret Ballot Elections

I believe the answer is to fix the system, not replace it with a system which has its own potential coercions.  Secret ballot elections are a mainstay of democracy, and I would hate to see anything open the door to their total elimination.

by probizdem 2007-06-21 04:47AM | 0 recs


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