Justice at Work

What do you think would happen if you tried to organize a union in your workplace? If you are like most Americans, you suspect that you would be fired, harassed, or penalized in some fashion for wanting a union. You're probably right.

Anti-union bullying or attacks occur in more than 80 percent of the workplaces in which workers seek to organize a union. If workers arrange to vote for a union, employers threaten to close plants, fire the union leaders (which obviously chills organizing efforts), harangue workers on paid time about how bad unions are, and occasionally beg workers to give them another chance. By the time workers finally get around to a vote, usually after months of anti-union barrages, many decide it's not worth trying to get a union.

In response to this routine bullying in the workplace, union leaders have proposed a set of simple improvements outlined in the Employee Free Choice Act. The bill passed the House March 1 and has been introduced in the Senate. Supporters believe it could win a majority vote in the Senate, but President Bush would likely veto it.

Nonetheless, as the first significant piece of labor law reform to come close to passing in decades, the Employee Free Choice Act is a bellwether for national changes likely in labor-management relations. The growing engagement of the religious community in supporting the Employee Free Choice Act reflects its recent experience in supporting janitors in Indianapolis, hotel workers in San Francisco, laundry workers in Chicago, security guards in Boston, and nursing home workers in the Twin Cities whose efforts to organize a union and get a contract were consistently thwarted by employers.

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Sojourners Magazine July 2007
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