Tag Archives: anti-union

President Biden Says, “Join the Union!”

biden union president workers rights america

March 2, 2021

New Orleans      John Lewis of the United Mineworkers Union and one of the founders of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, the CIO behind the hyphen in the AFL-CIO, famously had scores of organizers signing up tens of thousands after the election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt claiming that “The President says join the union!”.

It’s taken almost eighty years but this time it was Joe, not John, and President Biden came close in a video message — ironically on Twitter — to inferring the same thing, since neither really said those words. As importantly, he pointed out that this is not just his administration’s policy and program, but is a fundamental part of the National Labor Relations Act, and therefore the policy of the entire federal government. That’s not just his opinion, that’s a fact.

The occasion may have been triggered by the mail balloting beginning for Amazon workers at the almost 6000-strong Bessemer, Alabama plant, but his clarifying call for workers to join and support unions speaks directly to the entire working class.  He doesn’t mention Amazon, and that’s a good thing, because this applies to everyone whose shoulder is on the wheel, when he says,

Unions put power in the hands of workers. They level the playing field. They give you a stronger voice for your health, your safety, higher wages, protections from racial discrimination and sexual harassment. Unions lift up workers, both union and nonunion, but especially Black and Brown workers.

That was the heart of his message to workers, but he also has a message for employers as well, saying…

There should be no intimidation, no coercion, no threats, no anti-union propaganda. No supervisor should confront employees about their union preferences. Every worker should have a free and fair choice to join a union. The law guarantees that choice. And it’s your right, not that of an employer, it’s your right.

His message here is interesting, and just might speak to a new set of understandings for union organizing. No intimidation, coercion, or threats are all subjects for a charge before the NLRB. Anti-union propaganda is a fair game now, and should be outlawed or at least restrained, because such boss-messages do intimidate, coerce, and threaten. Pointing out that joining a union is a workers’ right and choice, and not that of the employer, is also an important twist. Too often current interpretations of US labor law, pretend that this is an even fight, when the employer controls the workplace, most communications, and the resources in a campaign that dwarf what the union can assemble in an election.

Biden’s emphasis on the union’s ability to protect against racial discrimination on the job and sexual harassment is also very significant, even though all unions may not be quite as ready to embrace this responsibility as he claims. He’s not hiding behind the long delays and toothlessness of the EEOC. He’s speaking to his base and the critical base his party wants to build and maintain. He’s also sending a message to construction and building trades that they better step up their game. He’s close to them, but he recognizes in this statement that many of them were way too transactional and cozy when playing footsie with former president Trump.

The media is talking about the fact that this is the most pro-union statement by a president since Harry Truman was in the office. One columnist quotes a Harvard professor claiming that presidents Carter and Clinton were anti-union. That’s not true at all, but to the degree they embraced neoliberalism, it too often ended up much the same and created a false sense of countervailing power that doesn’t exist in the workplace. Biden seems to be issuing a clarion call that curtseying before the altar of neoliberalism is also dead, and that’s also calling up the tune for a happy dance for all of us as well.

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Walmart Losing Streak Continues, Anti-Union Store Closing Illegal in Canada

wal-mart-protest-690x388New Orleans     There can’t be much joy these days in Bentonville, Arkansas, home of Walmart and its buddies.  The litany of woes just keeps piling up.  Five consecutive quarters of reduced financial returns has to lead the list.  In the land of the 1% you can just about get away with murder if you’re making enough money, but now that the emperor is increasingly walking down the superstore aisles naked, and people are starting to notice.

Bribery in Mexico and accusations of the same in India and China have cost Walmart almost a billion in legal fees and whatnot to try and cleanup for example.  The financial press, normally so soft and bullish about the company, pointedly noticed recently the number of high level big whoops that had exited from the company and the board, many with big footprints on their rear ends, no matter how many press releases to the contrary.  Even the Chinese government has jumped them for the quality of their food in its stores after years of patty cake treatment.

Adding to this litany of woes is a long overdue slap down up north as the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the company was dead wrong in closing its store in Quebec and despite all of its protestations, the Court was clear that the Jonquiere store was closed in 2005 because the workers had successfully organized a union with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).  The court in a 5-2 decision upheld an earlier arbitrator’s decision saying essentially the same thing.  The store had been organized in 2004 and when contract negotiations ended in an impasse, the company closed the store claiming insufficient returns.  The court has now returned the case to the arbitrator to determine the amount of back pay owed to the 200 workers put on the street.

Will the company learn something from all of this?  I doubt it.  They told the Wall Street Journal that they were reviewing their options.  What’s to review?  They just lost at the highest court level in Canada, so they have nowhere else to run and hide.  Unfortunately, this is Walmart, so their strategy will be more delay.  They are a decade out from the time they shut the store down.  I would bet they will also try to appeal the arbitrator’s back pay award once it is determined, and try to buy another couple of years to plead for court review of that as well.  While the UFCW argues that Walmart is learning a lesson that might inspire more workers in Canada to take a shot at organizing the company, the company is trying to send the message that sure, “take your best shot,” and then look at the lengths we will go to before you see a single looney after maybe fifteen years.

Nonetheless, the clock finally seems to be ticking on this anti-union, anything goes behemoth.  When they were expanding around the US and the globe, Wall Street could tolerate anything.  Now that their returns are slackening and their fast dealing is unraveling the brand, it could be that even their anti-union mischief is finally running out of time as well.

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