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Senator McGovern Wrong on Employee Free Choice Act

Because Senator George McGovern is a former ADA president whom we enthusiastically supported in his bid to become US President and because we agree with him far more often than not, we write today more in sorrow than in anger.

We couldn’t disagree more with Senator McGovern’s position on the Employee Free Choice Act.  His op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal is, quite simply, wrong from start to finish.  Senator Arlen Specter, who once supported the Employee Free Choice Act, recently announced his opposition and – even after his Party switch – reiterated that opposition.  We sincerely hope that both he and Senator McGovern will change their views and come to see the rationality of supporting the rights of workers who wish to organize to do so free from coercion and intimidation.

On the facts about the Employee Free Choice Act, both are misguided.  The assertion that current Labor law “maintains a careful balance between the rights of business, unions and individual employees” would be laughable if it weren’t so tragically mistaken.  In fact, labor laws designed to achieve that balance have been gutted and manipulated so badly in the past decades that the balance has swung decidedly in favor of employers who have proven themselves willing to go to any lengths to prevent workers who wish to organize from doing so.  Tactics range from firing organizers without provocation and without fear of retribution, to hiring union busters, to forced attendance at anti-union “education” sessions, to threats to close facilities and move overseas.  Workers – particularly in these tough economic times – are ill-equipped to counter such strong arm tactics.

If workers do manage to make it through all those obstacles, 32% still don’t have a contract after a full year because employers unfairly drag out the process to discredit the union and increase employee turnover.  Union busters call this “bargaining to the point of boredom.”  Binding arbitration is a badly needed bit of labor law reform since it ensures businesses enter negotiations in good faith or face the consequences. 

The Employee Free Choice Act also does not eliminate a worker’s right to a secret ballot.  It provides a choice between the secret ballot process or simply signing a card acknowledging the desire to join a union and collectively bargain for better wages, better benefits and a safer workplace.  Senator McGovern’s voice has always been a guide for liberals, but on this issue, he’s simply got his facts wrong. 

Amy Isaacs is National Director, Americans for Democratic Action

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