The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

March 11, 2009

Employees, not companies, should decide about unions

Many Pennsylvanians are aware that Sen. Arlen Specter may hold a key vote on the Employee Free Choice Act later this year. I believe that Specter should support this bill and bring some long-needed economic relief to struggling American workers, along with a return to common sense and justice in the workplace.

Let’s begin with a simple truth that everyone should be able to agree with: That the question of whether or not workers belong to a union is a decision solely for the workers to make. The company should not have a vote, nor should the Chamber of Commerce, nor the union-busting consultants who have sprung up like weeds.

It is common for workers seeking to organize to be threatened with plant closings, spied upon, threatened with discharge and, in fact, actually discharged just for supporting the idea of having a union. Twenty thousand American workers were discharged in 2007 for just that reason.

Many companies also tell their employees that they will never agree to any contract if a union wins representation rights.

All of this is illegal, of course, yet it happens routinely because the penalties are so meaningless as to be non-existent. At worst, a company will have to post a notice that it won’t do it again. And if you are fired illegally, as happens in 25 percent of all drives, you will have to wait, on average, about seven years for a decision that may reinstate you to your job, and even then only maybe with back pay.

What does the Employee Free Choice Act do to improve this situation? First, it increases penalties so that fines paid for violations of the law become more than just another cost of doing business. Break the law and you suffer serious consequences.

Workers have to obey the law. So should the boss.

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