Sunday, March 22, 2009

Corporate Lobbyists Oppose Employee Free Choice Act

Here's what Lee Scott, former CEO of Wal-Mart, says in opposition to the proposed Employee Free Choice Act: “We like driving the car, and we’re not going to give the steering wheel to anybody but us.”

Like Wal-Mart, many big corporations that benefit from a lack of worker bargaining power are fighting hard to prevent the bill from passing.

The Employee Free Choice Act would protect the freedom to form unions and bargain. It would put decisions about how to form a union in the hands of workers, not bosses, and would impose real penalties when companies abuse, harass or fire workers who are trying to form unions.

Big Business and its highly paid lobbyists have made blocking the Employee Free Choice Act their top priority, and they’re putting all of their efforts into a vicious and dishonest campaign, using shady front groups to spread falsehoods to the public, the press and politicians.

Many of these front groups have misleading names meant to convince people they’re on the side of workers, and they don’t reveal their funding sources. But these are the same groups and donors that fight against good wages, workplace safety and protection of workers’ rights.

That’s right: The groups operating under names like “workplace fairness,” “democratic workplace” and “job security” are the same as those that have fought against the minimum wage, workplace safety standards, medical leave and protections against discrimination.

Corporate efforts to block the Employee Free Choice Act are straight out of the same playbook that employers use to block workers’ attempts to form a union: blanketing their targets with deliberate lies and scary rhetoric. The biggest lie? That the Employee Free Choice Act would “eliminate the secret ballot.” It’s simply not true. In fact, the bill would protect the option of workers to form a union through a ballot process or by signing cards saying they want to form a union.

The Employee Free Choice Act takes away the boss’s right to interfere and tell you how to form a union. The corporate shills know this, but they hope to yell their lies loud enough that journalists will repeat them and politicians will vote based on them.

The anti-union, anti-worker campaign is so pervasive that Bank of America, days after being approved to get a taxpayer bailout, put its time and resources into hosting a conference call of CEOs and lobbyists to strategize against the Employee Free Choice Act. This act featured opponents of workers like lobbyist Rick Berman and Home Depot founder Bernie Marcus, who has said that retail industry leaders who didn’t dump money into anti-Employee Free Choice front groups and political candidates “should be shot.”

Why are these industry leaders so afraid of the Employee Free Choice Act? Because they know the same thing that the bill’s supporters know: U.S. labor laws are badly tilted in favor of bosses, and that under the legislation the workers, not companies, would have a say in forming unions and bargaining for health care, pensions, fair wages and better working conditions. Corporate cronies have been the only winners in our economy for a long time, and they’ll stop at nothing to keep it that way.

So next time you see a television ad or a newspaper op-ed attacking the Employee Free Choice Act, ask yourself: Who’s paying for this? And how do they stand to benefit if workers’ freedom to form a union is blocked?

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