By Scott Williams
Six Democrats in the Senate announced July 16 that they will drop the card check provision in the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill designed to force bosses to acknowledge a union if a majority of workers sign cards to join the union.
Capitalist media, Republicans, bankers and bosses from all sectors have come out in support of this compromise, since dropping the card check provision greatly weakens EFCA and stunts workers’ ability to organize against the millions of layoffs now occurring and for better wages and benefits.
EFCA, which originally passed the House of Representatives in 2008, is a desperately-needed reform for workers. The economic crisis has caused an increase in union-busting by bosses, including massive layoffs of workers and union organizers, outsourcing and off-shoring of union jobs, and the weakening of major union contracts such as the recently-brokered contracts between the United Auto Workers and General Motors and Chrysler.
EFCA would support workers’ right to organize a union and win contracts with their bosses. The legislation proposes to stop bosses from delaying union certification through intimidation, threats or firing pro-union workers. Originally, EFCA required bosses to acknowledge a union and begin negotiations after a majority of workers sign cards or approve direct union certification, rather than mandating a so-called “secret ballot.” EFCA would even allow for fines and penalties including triple back pay against the bosses for “unfair labor practices.”
With the labor movement significantly weakened by the exploitative nature of global capitalism, EFCA is necessary for workers to organize unions and fight back during this new period of “jobless recovery” and low-wage capitalism.
Even after labor unions spent hundreds of millions of dollars to elect President Barack Obama and other Democrats in 2008, the betrayal of right-wing “moderate” Democrats in the Senate, such as Arlen Specter, in compromising on EFCA is nothing new. Definitely no friends of workers, Specter and other Democratic senators receive lots of money each year from investment banks such as Goldman Sachs, as well as from construction companies, health care corporations, and other superrich anti-union lobbies.
Business owners and other capitalists, such as the Chamber of Commerce and Bank of America, have spent countless millions to defeat the bill. They have their Democratic and Republican mouthpieces complaining that EFCA is unfair to the bosses.
Saying card checks are undemocratic while heralding secret-ballot elections, which are heavily influenced by the bosses’ scare tactics including firings and harassment of pro-union workers, comes straight from the ruling-class perspective of the bankers and Wall Street billionaires. This is true for any boss-worker relationship under capitalism. Laws are passed in favor of bosses and against workers and our right to organize, along with our rights to education, decent food, childcare and adequate housing.
Like the passage of the historic National Labor Relations Act of 1935, which set the legal framework and protections for unions to build workers’ power and take back some of the billions they created in profits from the bosses, the only way EFCA will pass with the card check provision intact is by workers getting in the streets and fighting back.
Putting a filibuster-proof majority of Democrats in any office will never bring about protections for workers. Rebuilding the labor movement and fighting for the right to organize will build the skills and organization needed for the liberation of workers from the exploitative capitalist system.
Williams is a Raleigh, N.C., student, worker and organizer with FIST—Fight Imperialist, Stand Together—and University of North Carolina Student Action with Workers.