Since Ronald Reagan introduced the thoroughly discredited theory of “trickle down” economics in the early 1980s, a growing number of American workers have been convinced to turn their backs on unions.
We’ve bought into the false claims that unions have caused the loss of good jobs in this country. Working men and women have gotten suckered into the “Right to Work” concept, failing to recognize that what we’re really supporting is the “right to work” for less, much less, while executive compensation skyrocketed.
With a growing belief that unions do more harm than good and are obsolete, it’s become far too common for companies to fire employees who dare to attempt any union organizing. These companies fire union organizers because they know that the benefits of making workers fearful outweighs any penalties they might pay.
Rep. Keith Ellison (R-MN) wants to change that. He has announced a bill he plans to bring to the floor at the end of this month which will address the issue by making union organization a civil right rather than a matter of labor law as it is now.
With labor organizing defined as a civil right, workers can seek redress in federal court for termination as retaliation for organizing, so they can sue for compensatory and punitive damages as well as legal fees and to have the case heard by a jury of their peers.
Under current law the wronged workers must file a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board which will make the determination as to whether or not it will represent the worker.
Ellison says that he got the idea for his bill from a book by Richard Kahlenberg and Moshe Marvit, fellows of the Century Foundation. “Why Labor Organizing Should Be A Civil Right” was published in 2012 with a synopsis by the authors published shortly before publication in an op-ed in the New York Times.
Ellison’s bill would leave intact the current system for dealing with unfair labor practices through the NLRB while allowing the workers to also file individual suit against the employer who retaliated against them.
In their op-ed piece Kahlenberg and Marvit wrote:
“Past efforts to strengthen labor laws over four decades have gotten bogged down: Congress cannot pass reforms until labor’s political clout increases, but that won’t happen without labor law reform.”
That loss of clout is the direct result of the union busting policies of corporations and their allies in the GOP over those four decades during which unionized workers have fallen from 35 percent of the workforce to 7 percent.
The system proposed in the book would work in the same way a case of discrimination based on race, gender or any other protected classification brought before the EEOC works, allowing the wronged worker to file an individual case in federal court after 180 days, based on the rights of free association guaranteed by the First Amendment and the equality guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment.
It is not yet known how closely Ellison’s bill follows the proposals put forth by Kahlenberg and Marvit but Kahlenberg says that he has been in contact with Ellison’s staff and that he believes he is “the right person to advance this idea” because of his “strong record on civil rights and a strong record on labor.”
Photo: Raw Story.