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Bud's Beat

Union rolls could get boost from proposed law
By: Bud Pisarek, Loomis News Correspondent
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Last week’s opus (April 16) was an introduction to the labor union movement in this country in the early 1930s. My parents’ generation fought hard and long to bring the movement to fruition. We all benefited enormously, and rightfully so. It was one generation’s gift to the other. Now, that giant step in social strides, after devastating setbacks, has a chance to make a comeback. There has been a steady erosion of workers’ rights since the Ronald Reagan years. Do you remember when he fired air traffic controllers who had been on strike? Congress will soon debate, and hopefully embrace, the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). There will be strong opposition from a coalition of lobbyists against it. Corporate leaders have spread the myth that unions are archaic and no longer necessary. They overlook the fact that their plan has brought falling wages, lowering of workers purchasing power, and elimination of health care benefits. The opposition will also use the same old argument that today management and labor have been working closely in concert to meet competition. Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act, setting up a system for the private sector and workers, who joined unions, to bargain. That was 1936. Workers, under the NLRA, had the full freedom of organizing a bargaining unit for reasonable wages and rights. The act has been so convoluted to make it almost impossible for people to unionize. Workers are afraid of being fired for attempting to form a union because the NLRA is not being enforced. If passed, EFCA would bring back the right for workers to form unions without the threat of losing their jobs. So, the attempt to return to the intent of the 1936 act that gave the country’s work force “the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid and protection” will soon be decided.