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DEEP


The Black Dog inspires creativity -- its high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows and spacious tables encourage daydreaming, journaling, doodling and other precursors to art making.


THE SHOWS




Twin Town High (vol. 8)

Your Locally Grown Alternative Newspaper


MOVING MOUNTAINS
Tuesday 26 June @ 13:48:36
News
Exercising Your Rights At Work
by LYDIA HOWELL

Politicians and pundits refer to “the middle class” as a mantra—all the while promoting and passing legislation that is an all-out assault on those who want to stay in the middle class or aspire to it. This week the U.S. Senate votes on the Employee Free Choice Act, a law that could help level the playing field between Corporate America and the people whose labor actually creates profits—that is, you and your fellow workers. This bipartisan bill, which already passed the House, would remove some of the boss-based barriers to employees joining a union.


Americans need to know that unions are largely responsible for creating the post-WWII middle class. Unions raise workers' wages, provide benefits, promote higher productivity, and, like one of my favorite bumper stickers says, “Unions—The Folks Who Brought You The Weekend!”

Since Ronald Reagan's 1980 election, we've heard a steady stream of anti-union propaganda, coupled with a green light for employers to break the law in order to stop workers from organizing. Corporate mythology is common in so-called “right-to-work” states across the South--an area as traditionally hostile to unions as to civil rights for African-Americans—keeping white workers confused with racism and keeping all workers down. In states restricting unions, all workers’ wages average 14.4 per cent less than where unions are; in service jobs, the gap widens to 25 percent or more.

For almost 30 years, conservative think tanks like the Minneapolis-based Center for the American Experiment, have claimed that decent wages for workers—but, somehow never the tens of millions of dollars for executives--destroy businesses. This false claim was debunked by Professors Richard Freeman and Morris Kleiner in Industrial Labor Relations Review in July 1999.

In fact, a recent survey of 73 independent studies showed that unionized workforces had between 10 and 22 percent higher productivity than non-union ones. Unionized workers tend to be better trained, too.

Since Bill Clinton's “welfare reform,” we've heard over and over that “a job is the best antipoverty program” but not if you're paid rock-bottom wages and can be fired without recourse. A union job is a clear path out of poverty—even for relatively unskilled workers. For example, a cashier with a union card averages $11 an hour—compared to barely above the current $5.25 minimum wage. That same cashier, not a union member, is living almost $4,000 a year under the poverty line.

Health care is the No. 1 reason for personal bankruptcies, and almost 50 million Americans have no health insurance benefits from their job. But, 80 percent of workers in a union have health insurance—and pensions, too. Members of Congress get great health benefits----while dragging their feet on universal, single-payer health care for the rest of us. Depending on years of service, members of Congress retire with pensions that average between $46,908 to $50,616—at least three times what ordinary Americans get in retirement. For more on Congress' pensions see: http://www.snopes.com/politics/taxes/pensions.asp

At the end of the 1930s’ Great Depression, labor unions had made gains and by the 1950s, almost 35 percent of American workers were union members. Today, about 12 percent of workers are in unions.

What happened?

What happened is that the laws protecting workers’ rights to organize on the job for a union have been ignored, courts have undermined ordinary workers at every turn, and corporations have been given more and more power while workers have been reduced to disposable widgets. Every day people are illegally threatened or actually fired from their jobs. Companies spy on their employees and illegally keep union literature out of the workplace. Corporations commit all sorts of dirty tricks to try to stop workers from voting on a union. If they do vote and win a union, then, employers drag their feet on negotiating a contract.

The Employees Free Choice Act (Senate bill 1041, House Resolution 800) would establish stronger penalties for employers who violate workers' rights to organize for a union and would negotiate contracts provide mediation and arbitration during negotiations. Workers would be able to form a union by signing cards authorizing union representation. Don't buy the corporate hype that somehow this right to sign cards “violates the secret ballot.” That's just more anti-union propaganda from the same folks who are outsourcing jobs to sweatshop countries--where union organizers are beaten and murdered—which America's Big Business used to do here from the 19th century through the 1930s.

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar has vowed support for the Employees Free Choice Act S 1041, but Senator Norm Coleman is waffling. You can let him know that his constituents would like the chance to make living wages, have health care and a pension—just like he does—by emailing: Opinion@coleman-senate.gov

To have a chance to join the middle class, you have to have working class consciousness--and it really helps to have a union card, too.

For more information, see: www.aflcio.org
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