If you’ve paid any attention in the last few months to progressive rags like In These Times or <a href="http://www.thenation.com/doc/20090126/kaplan"The Nation, you’ve seen that labor and business have started exchanging the opening blows over a big piece of upcoming legislation, the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). And if you’ve been paying attention to Media Mouse, you’ve seen the fight beginning right here in West Michigan, as local groups like the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy have come out against the bill and the Republican-controlled Michigan State Senate has passed a resolution against it.
We need to call a spade a spade here. This isn’t simply an argument by some folks who think unions are good and some who think unions are bad. The corporate interests in West Michigan and around the country who are gearing up to defeat EFCA don’t have the interests of working folks in mind. Unions fight to defend people who bust their butts day-in and day-out, to make sure they aren’t taken advantage of at work. But making sure that working people have a bit of dignity in their treatment and pay at work hurts corporations’ bottom lines–the only thing they care about.
This fight isn’t about a difference in opinion. It’s about corporations defending their abilities to screw over working people without anybody demanding they cut it out.
Media Mouse has covered the hoopla around EFCA over the last few weeks, and David Moberg gives a thorough overview of its ins and outs in last month’s issue of In These Times. It’s a piece of legislation that would make it easier for workers to form and join unions, and would increase employer penalties for anti-union activity. Collective bargaining goes up in this country, and over the long-term, workers’ benefits and pay probably go up with it. Sounds pretty good in such brutal economic times, right?
Not if you’re the one who might have to shave a few bucks off your six- or seven-figure salary when workers demand you share a piece of the pie. If you’re a bigwig business owner or executive like many of the folks who make up the Grand Rapids and Michigan Chambers of Commerce (or a Republican State Senator beholden to them), what’s good for the average worker–better benefits and pay–hurts how much dough you end up taking home. Not all COC members are swimming in cash, to be sure, but as Media Mouse has pointed out, these are the same folks who opposed living wage legislation and increases in minimum wage. Examining these groups’ positions makes it clear there are two groups, workers and owners, whose interests are at odds here. The official reasons these organizations give have been thoroughly debunked on this site and others: EFCA wouldn’t allow for secret ballot union elections (it does), it would result in union intimidation of employees (an old union stereotype, ironic considering that it’s management who is actually doing the intimidating), yadda yadda yadda. The truth is best summed up by Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott, who, when asked about EFCA, said the following:
“We like driving the car and we’re not going to give the steering wheel to anybody but us.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself, Lee. This is about working- and middle-class folks being in control of their own lives, not fat cat CEOs who crisscross the globe on private jets and spend $35,000 on toilets keeping them living paycheck to paycheck.
Don’t be fooled by scheming CEOs or the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce. The Employee Free Choice Act isn’t perfect, but its passage would be a step towards improving the lives of hardworking Americans. Lord knows they’ve earned it.
Feel free to continue the discussion by emailing Mikey at email@example.com or by making a comment below.