Organizing workers to join a union is not an easy job. Companies will go to extreme lengths to quash any such efforts. And the law, as a new report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) explains, is merely an inconvenience for many.
The document finds that employers are charged with violating federal law in 41.5 percent of all union election campaigns and illegally firing workers in nearly 20 percent of elections. The report is a comprehensive analysis of employer conduct in union representation elections supervised by the National Labor Relations Board in 2016 and 2017.
“Employers routinely threaten, intimidate and fire workers when they try to form a union at their workplace,” said Celine McNicholas, EPI’s director of government affairs and a co-author of the report. “Employers face few consequences because our current labor law fails to provide works meaningful protections.”
EPI’s document also details the “union avoidance” industry, estimating that employers spend nearly $340 million per year hiring anti-union lawyers and consultants to help prevent employers from organizing, including at some of the nation’s largest companies such as Google, Coca-Cola, AT&T and elsewhere.
During the Obama administration, regulations to curb the so-called “persuader rule” were instituted that would have limited the ability of companies to force workers to participate in meetings with outside anti-union interlopers. But efforts to limit such activity were defanged.
As it stands, in almost 30 percent of elections, employers were charged with illegally coercing, threatening or retaliating against workers for union support. Employers with larger bargaining units were more likely to be charged with violating the law, including some 54 percent of employers in elections involving more than 60 workers.
“Far more workers want union representation than are able to obtain it under our current system,” Ben Zipperer, EPI’s economist and co-author of the report, said. “This is a result of not only decades of legislative and judicial attacks to workers’ rights, but also a largely secretive industry dedicated to helping employers derail unionization efforts.”
Unions today are enjoying stronger support than they have in almost 50 years. There is an understanding by a sizable majority in this country that hardworking Americans deserve higher pay and greater respect on the job.
The American labor movement is responsible for many things the public and politicians take for granted — the weekend, the 40-hour work week and anti-child labor laws to name a few. Unions are reinvigorated and working for other profoundly important things — securing wages and benefits that working families deserve, the continued existence of the middle class, and respect and dignity for all working people.
But there are no guarantees that will continue. Companies cannot be allowed to run roughshod over their workers. The U.S. needs leaders who are willing to prove they stand shoulder-to-shoulder with workers. Hardworking Americans are tired of empty promises.