10/26/2008 05:12 am ET Updated 6 days ago

Obama, McCain And The Rights Of The American Worker

Imagine showing up to a high-stakes boxing match with your gloves only to find your opponent has brought a knife. You look to the ref and see that his milky eyes won't focus because he's in fact blind. When you go to reason with the ref, he fumbles around you and slowly removes your gloves. You could refuse to fight and file a complaint with the rules committee. But the rules committee functions with all the efficiency and fairness of a Soviet gulag.


That's what a union organizing drive is like. And you can guess who the boss is in that fight. You have a problem with that? File it with The Committee.
Not only is the balance of power grossly skewed towards employers in and organizing drive, but the rules of the organizing process as they're currently laid out under the National Labor Relations Board are so retrograde and draconian, it's essentially exercise in futility.


When employees decide to form a union and their employer chooses to fight them, be prepared to witness the filthiest most duplicitous examples of human behavior. I've done battle with the titans of the healthcare industry who, rather than hand over a wage increase, will spend lavish amounts on union-busting lawyers, manipulative smear campaigns, and overtime pay to managers who call and house-visit employees to threaten their livelihoods.


All of this is illegal, of course. Employers are not allowed to interfere with a union election through coercion and intimidation. Firing a worker for forming a union is a federal offense (just like kidnapping and murder y'all!). I've been organizing since 2002 and I can name ten workers -- cashiers, orderlies, nurses, personal care attendants -- who have been fired for signing a union card. If and when they decide to go to a labor court, it can take years to settle a case and get their job back. There are no immediate fines for employers; there is no accountability. There is no right to a fast and fair trail when it comes to labor law. There is no reasonable time line on re-running an election. So it may be years until justice prevails and the employer is punished for marring the election.


There is some legislation on the dock, however, that would snatch the knife out of the boss' grip: The Employee Free Choice Act. EFCA makes it easier for workers to organize and it also increases the financial spankings employers deserve when they try to bust a union. Obama, thankfully, is for it. He believes that "workers should have the freedom to choose whether to join a union without harassment or intimidation from their employers."

And where does the Senior Senator from Arizona stand on this issue? Simple, he's a scab. Anti-union and anti-worker. He has used paltry rhetoric to come out against EFCA. He commonly uses anachronistic images of the big bad union bosses to slam the legislation.
It's clear where the two candidates fall on this issue. McCain doesn't believe in labor law reform -- even though today there is no clearer proof that even the government cannot successfully control and regulate the rapacious appetite for profit and power of mega corporations. So Senator McCain, I would like to know: How is a piddling, anemic set of labor laws supposed to ensure that workers will be able to form a union without the indignity of an unfair, un- regulated, bloody, fight?