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Labor Law Reform
The Bill of Rights has never been applied in the workplace, where employers are empowered to maintain near-absolute control. With our constitutional rights shredded by our employers, our modern-day right to organize into unions is also ignored. Our freedom to be protected from unreasonable searches and seizures ends at the gate or front door. Our freedoms of speech and assembly are virtually nonexistent while at work – unless you have a union.
The passage of the Wagner Act in 1935 was the closest labor has gotten to a “Bill of Rights.” The Wagner Act provided labor the right to organize, to bargain, and to strike without interference from the employer. For the first time employers were required to recognize and bargain with a union of the workers’ choice.
To undermine the Wagner Act, a Republican Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947. This restricted the ability of organized labor to organize and deal effectively with the problems we faced. The law took away the right of labor to challenge the employer with the use of secondary boycott, made closed shops illegal, allowed states to pass “Right-to-Work” laws, allowed the President to interfere in strikes, and gave employers the ability to prevent workers from organizing.
The UE has been in the forefront of calling for reform of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). No significant progress has been made on labor rights in decades, and today employers brazenly violate the law and victimize working people who dare to challenge their complete control by attempting to unionize. In the public sector, many workers are prohibited from bargaining collectively and those who may bargain more often than not lack the right to strike. We are faced with a labor and human rights emergency.
The facts are shocking. Almost ten percent of workers who engage in organizing are fired by their employers, amounting to tens of thousands every year. Of those organizing drives that manage to navigate the minefield of employer lawbreaking, only half are won by working people. And of those lucky enough to win, only half win first contracts. The ranks of those reaching this nearly unattainable pinnacle are then cut in half once again, as only half ever win second contracts. Since 1979, the percentage of unionized workers in the U.S. declined from 24 percent to 12 percent and the percentage is now less than 8 percent in the private sector.
The labor movement has been slow to address the problem. For many decades the AFL-CIO ignored this human rights debacle at home and instead joined the U.S. government propaganda machine in promoting the myth that American workers enjoyed perfect democracy.
Labor is under an orchestrated attack in nearly every Republican-controlled state government. We have witnessed this in Wisconsin, Ohio, and other states. They wish to turn back the clock to a time when there was no protection for labor when the robber barons ruled unchallenged.
President Obama was elected on a pro-labor agenda that included card-check recognition (the Employee Free Choice Act). He has not delivered on his promises.
Labor laws must be grounded in the Constitution and specifically in the Bill of Rights and the 13th amendment. We will not rest as a union until these rights are guaranteed to all workers.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT THIS 72nd UE CONVENTION:
- Calls on Congress to amend the constitution to include worker rights; and in the meantime to pass legislation giving workers the same rights to organize without restriction or limitation in the workplace that we enjoy outside the workplace, including substantial penalties for employers who violate these rights;
- Calls on Congress to reintroduce and pass the Employee Free Choice Act, and assess their failure to pass this important legislation in the 111th Congress;
- Calls for congressional hearings to investigate the systematic violation by employers of workers’ right to organize.
- Urges all locals to share information with other unions about the labor rights emergency and the need for real labor law reform;
- Calls on our membership to engage in all forms of aggressive struggle including, where appropriate, civil disobedience in order to obtain workplace justice;
- Calls on Congress to repeal the Taft-Hartley Act;
- Support in all states those movements which call for the expansion of the rights of labor and an end to all restrictions on the ability of labor to function freely;
- Urges all locals to be involved in their state labor history society, and to educate their members about the battles labor unions have fought in the past.