Labor Day, Chris Christie, and the Employee Free Choice Act

It’s labor-day weekend so let’s think about unions, Republicans, and politics.

Unions are a potent reality check as well as a counterforce to the power of big business. Most union members don’t fall for free market propaganda and the myths about unfettered capitalism. They have a better grasp on how the world works. Unions aren’t perfect, but I don’t know any other organization that has the clout to oppose the power and money of big business and unscrupulous employers.

Why do the Republicans oppose unions? Here’s an important fact. Most Republicans oppose unions because white men in unions voted for Obama by 18 points — while those outside of unions voted for McCain by 16 points.

In the upcoming election, we need to know why Chris Christie has almost no labor support. My fear is that he will he be a dependable Republican that will do just about anything to make sure the government protects corporate profits and power and the expense of the rest of us.

The Employee Free Choice Act will go a long way toward redressing the imbalance of power between labor and business. Where does Christie stand on the EFCA? Why are so few workers unionized? Corporations opposing unions often masking their attacks with claims about freedom of choice for employees, while attacking union leaders as bullies. Is there any truth to this?

As the first major battle to reform labor law since the 1970s heats up we need to separate fact from fiction. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Right to Work Committee and phony front groups like the Alliance to Save Main Street Jobs are working to ensure that the Employee Free Choice Act is defeated. We will be hearing more misinformation about labor in the coming weeks.

If you are not sure you understand what is at stake I urge you to check out a radio program Making Contact. National Radio Project’s Abby Scher uncovers the truth behind the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s multimillion-dollar misinformation campaign to defeat the bill in the name of saving small businesses.

Listen to her documentary, Still Looking for the Union Label. Or listen in Monday to Heidi Boghosian’s Labor Day interview with Abby on the show Law and Disorder at 10am on WBAI.

Experts outline the history of anti-union campaigns dating back to the 1930s, showing how the National Right to Work Committee and U.S. Chamber of Commerce have tried to “flip the script” so it appears that unions rather than a company’s unfair wages and working conditions are the problem.

In our country where less than 9% of the private work force has an organized voice and 40 percent of union organizing drives are stopped by corporate intimidation even before workers have a chance to vote, labor law is in dire need of reform. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the nation’s biggest lobby, spending an average of $400,000 a day in a single legislative session (according to the Center for Responsive Politics). It is spending tens of millions more spreading its anti-union message on the airwaves to shape the fall battle.

While enjoying your weekend vacation, check out Scher’s documentary about the Right’s misinformation campaign to stop labor law reform this year. Scher’s documentary shines the light on the history of these corporate attacks.

John Atlas is a founder of Shelterforce and board chair emeritus. He is the producer of ACORN and the Firestorm, a film directed by Reuben Atlas and Sam Pollard and author of SEEDS OF CHANGE: The Story of ACORN, America's Most Controversial Anti-Poverty Community Group. He is also the former executive director of the Passaic County Legal Aid Society.


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