As U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Merkley attempts to visit one-hundred towns before November, he’s spent a lot of time talking about democracy and his support for “ordinary working people”.
Unfortunately for ordinary working people, talk is about all the support they can expect from Merkley.
Merkley supports the Employee Free Choice Act, a misnamed and deceptive piece of legislation that takes away workers’ right to a private ballot in the workplace regarding whether they want to join a union.
The current system is fair and allows unions to collect signatures from workers to determine whether they want to unionize. Once the union has approval from 30 percent of the workers, an election is called for by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), a federal agency created to protect workers. The workers then vote by private ballot, the same basic American right we all have when we go to vote for a candidate, say for U.S. Senate.
Under the deceptively-named Employee Free Choice Act however, the NLRB would be effectively abolished and workers would be given a contract to sign by union organizers. These contracts are collected by union organizers. Once unions have 51% of the workers’ signatures on the dotted line, they are recognized as the employees’ representation and can negotiate with small business owners over wages, benefits and other important aspects of their jobs.
How secure would you feel if an organization that benefits from you signing up also hands out and collects the contracts that say whether or not you want to join? The checks and balances of the system are taken away by the Employee Free Choice Act.
And what kind of democracy is it when your vote isn’t held private? Workers would be open to intimidation, coercion and even threats by union organizers and fellow workers in an attempt to “persuade” them to sign these cards.
Unions like to talk about increased benefits or higher wages, but they won’t tell workers that union bosses are paying themselves six-figure salaries from members’ dues, that hundreds of union officials have been convicted of racketeering in the past five years or that unions’ inflexibility has played a role in driving many companies into bankruptcy, costing those same workers their jobs.
They also don’t talk about the tens of millions of dollars they collect in dues that go to politicians like Merkley who turn around and pass legislation that makes it easier for unions to get more members and therefore increase the dues they take from ordinary working people. This vicious cycle ensures that politicians like Merkley continue to receive millions in financial support while ordinary working people struggle to put food on the table and gas in their cars and trucks.
Merkley and his supporters claim that unions create a better working environment, more job security and higher wages. The real question we should be asking is for whom: Workers or the union bosses and politicians like Jeff Merkley?
Merkley claims to stand up for ordinary working people, but his actions and his support of the Employee Free Choice Act say that he’s really looking out for himself.