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We Need Labor Law Reform

In the latest issue of the Northwest Labor Press, Oregon AFL-CIO President Graham Trainor makes a strong case for why we need to reform our country’s outdated labor laws. In the article, President Trainor offers a couple of scenarios that shows some of the problems workers face today when organizing a union at work:

Imagine this scenario: You and a group of coworkers have made it through the daunting task of forming your first union. You commence bargaining with your employer, who is legally required to do so, and you’re met by a brick wall. Your employer refuses to bargain in good faith, drags on the process for over a year, and forces your coworkers to lose confidence in the process and their ability to bargain a fair contract. Charges are filed with the NLRB, but the regional NLRB office is so understaffed with a backlog of cases that further delays ensue. As you and your coworkers have grown frustrated by union-busting tactics, several have been cultivated by managers to oppose the union. They file a decertification petition aiming to formally remove the union that was just voted in by a majority of workers and are successful.

Or imagine this: A group of workers is organizing their union when their employer flies in an out-of-state “union avoidance consultant.” This “consultant” schedules a special all-employee meeting aimed at deterring the organizing effort. This meeting is followed up by mandatory one-on-one meetings with each employee where fear and intimidation tactics are used to undermine the worker's ability to connect with enough of their coworkers to succeed with their campaign.

We have written in depth about the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which coupled with legislation supported by the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees and the International Association of Fire Fighters would give working people in our country a more even playing field against corporations and their high dollar, often out-of-state, union busters.

President Trainor was recently interviewed about the PRO Act, and explained an important issue addressed in the proposed legislation:

"It's commonplace in private-sector union organizing, in Oregon and across the country, that workers are intimidated, they're scared. Employers use mandatory one-on-one meetings to intimidate workers from joining a union, and it really stacks the deck against the group of workers who want to see change."

The reasons behind the push to reform labor law are not new, as President Trainor explains in his Northwest Labor Press article:

The “union avoidance” legal industry has grown to a multi-billion dollar industry, and it’s had a string of successes. In fact, every single change to the 1935 Wagner Act, also known as the National Labor Relations Act, since it was passed has been an anti-worker change. Workers need a rewrite of our labor laws, and we need them fast.

The so-called “union avoidance” industry which President Trainer mentions has been making headlines recently, along with articles investigating the hurdles workers are jumping over to form unions in their workplaces. Here is a round-up of some recent press related to why labor law reform is critically needed in our country:

  • How to Organize Your Workplace Without Getting CaughtVice News “In the last few years, American workers across multiple industries have unionized or mobilized collectively in an attempt to get better wages, demand accountability for sexual harassers in the workplace, push for real action to slow down climate change, and in general, change company culture.”

  • CNN pays out record $76 million to settle union-busting case – Washington Examiner “CNN agreed to pay out $76 million in back pay to settle a lawsuit that alleged union busting by the cable network after it fired 200 camera operators rather than dealing with the union that claimed to represent them.”

  • Labor Board Paves Way for Employers to Ward Off Union Emails – Bloomberg Law “Employers can likely bar their employees from sending union-related emails without unlawfully discriminating against unions as a result of a pair of recent National Labor Relations Board rulings, management attorneys said.”

  • Another ex-Google employee accuses company of union busting – Games Industry “A fifth former Google employee has come forward alleging that the company fired them for union-related activities, following similar accusations from four others over Thanksgiving this year.”

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