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Labor law stacks deck against workers
by Jake Highton
Feb 22, 2013 | 1900 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Labor desperately needs the Employee Free Choice Act, a law that would allow workers to unionize and bargain collectively if the majority in a unit sign for it. But as labor law now stands, workers have to vote to approve a union. This allows companies to intimidate, threaten and fire workers who lead organizing drives. Workers are fired for such trivial reasons as affixing names of the “wrong candidates” on their bumper stickers.

Companies also hold meetings for “political persuasion,” meaning to “persuade” workers to vote “correctly.”

Workers also face an insurmountable barrier: chains like Starbucks, Costco and Walmart are so popular that a right-wing Congress will never enact a sign-up law.

Starbucks prospers because the demand for a coffee fix is tremendous. Costco and Walmart thrive because their prices are “right”: low.

The low cost for shoppers takes a toll on the workers. Pay is so low at Walmart that in some cases employees qualify for food stamps.

“Almost a quarter of all jobs in America now pay wages below the poverty line for a family of four,” columnist Robert Reich points out. He cites particularly big-box retailers like Walmart.

As for Starbucks, The Nation labor writer Josh Eidelson observes: “While it cultivates a progressive image, Starbucks is overwhelmingly nonunion. It has repeatedly demonstrated its commitment to remain so.”

The National Labor Relations Board ruled in 2009 that Starbucks had illegally fired four union leaders. But the case is on appeal, likely meaning the case will be appealed until the workers lose.

Workers also suffer under two-tier plans proliferating in America. Under it, employers are reducing the pay of new hires as long as the pay of existing employees is not touched.

Even the nation’s most powerful unions have agreed to this unfairness on the false theory that it’s better than no job at all.

                                                              A justice errs

Justice Sonia Sotomayor votes right on the Supreme Court but her judgment off the bench is faulty.

PepsiCo, giant beverage and snack food firm, is sponsoring a conference in April for women who attended Yale. Sotomayor, a graduate of Yale law school, is scheduled to speak.

“I didn’t go to Pepsi University,” one Yale degree holder said. Moreover, she deplored the company’s public health record. (Food Safety News reported that Pepsi contains traces of a chemical that causes cancer in lab animals.)

Another grad, long-time critic of PepsiCo’s ties with Yale, complained about Pepsi having “tentacles deep into Yale.”

The idealists are right. But money is more important to universities than values.

                                                          Dictator rules Russia

The Russian judiciary does the bidding of President “czar” Putin so it is hardly surprising a district court in Moscow recently placed a prominent opposition leader under house arrest. He is Sergei Udaltsov, leader of the socialist Left Front movement, passionate public speaker and grandson of a staunch Bolshevik.

Udaltsov is under criminal charges of conspiracy to incite “mass disorder,” whatever that is. Doubtless he will be sentenced to 10 years in jail under Putin’s KGB reign.

Putin’s regime is also trying to prosecute Sergei Magnitsky, whistle-blowing lawyer who died in a Moscow jail three years ago. He was jailed for investigating hundreds of millions of dollars stolen by Russian officials.

Magnitsky was beaten in jail and denied medical care, greatly damaging Russia’s image abroad. Czar Putin couldn’t care less.

Jake Highton is an emeritus journalism professor at the University of Nevada, Reno.
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