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January 25, 2005

Blog Labor, Not "About Labor"

Well, it's good to see Matt, Brad, Ezra and Chris are talking about the virtues of blogging about labor.

Which is a start.

But rather than all this meta-talk about labor, I'd love to see folks analyze real labor fights in the detail that bloggers take on other issues. Sure, the SEIU versus AFL-CIO smackdown got some blog press, but that story broke during the DNC convention (probably not coincidentally with Andy Stern's sense of how to get attention). But the bread-and-butter fights, the strikes, the organizing campaigns-- those need the blog energy to educate the public about why they matter.

My standard line is that the press covers unions only in two cases-- when they are going on strike or when their leaders are being indicted. Most people couldn't tell you what a grievance is or how arbitrations are used to enforce a worker's rights under a union contract.

I'll give a point to Henry Farell at Crooked Timber about a NY Times story about a Human Rights Watch report about violations of workers rights in the meatpacking industry.

But why do we have to wait for a classic liberal group like Human Rights Watch -- who have done good work in this area, I should add -- to speak out before a lot of liberals will take labor abuses seriously?

An NLRB Outrage: Instead, maybe people should be signed up to receive emails from American Rights At Work, the labor-supported but independent organization that is directly facing off against the anti-union forces. Just this week, they highlighted a horrific outrage at the National Labor Relations Board.

Here's the story: in any labor election, union-busting lawyers cajole and threaten supervisors into becoming campaigners against the union. Supervisors hold captive audience meetings, tell workers the company will shut down if they vote for the union, and campaign day-after-day on company time to defeat the union. And this is all legal.

But guess what? According to a 3-2 decision at the NLRB, if one lower level supervisor advocates FOR the union, the whole election is tainted and the election gets thrown out.

To add to the twisted logic of the decision, the supervisor in question didn't even know they'd legally be counted as a supervisor, since the NLRB and the Supreme Court have increasingly declared that low level employees with minimal oversight responsibilities still count as supervsisors (and by the way, lose all protections under labor law).

So that's the double standard in our workplaces. Employers can REQUIRE supervisors to campaign full-time against the union, but workers can't campaign for the union during that same work time and if a supervisor promotes the union AT ALL, the whole union drive is illegal and the election is thrown out.

So let's see some more blogging about these kinds of attacks by the Bush administration's NLRB.

Posted by Nathan at January 25, 2005 11:03 PM