Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Vito Says: "Pass the Card Check Labor Law!"

Today we begin a new feature here at highwayscribery called, “Vito Says.”

You will remember (or not) a few weeks ago highwayscribery posted its pitch to African-American media for a story on the obscure Congressman from the 1930s and ’40s, Vito Marcantonio, given that it was Black History Month.

(That’s him, with the fedora hat, down at the dockworkers union during a strike on the New York waterfront).

the scribe, ostensibly, sold that story although he’s yet to see either check or tear-sheet, but that’s not your problem.

Anyway, what the scribe found most intriguing about reading “Vito Marcantonio: Debates, Speeches and Writings,” was how many of the issues “Marc” found himself battling in those long-ago times are still vital today.

His quit wit, unaffected oratory, and Manhattan passion all impressed the scribe who thought it would be interesting to give some of today’s questions, “The Vito Treatment.”

No, not a Mafia movie, but an application of his words to 21st century issues. In this way highwayscribery could continue its rehabilitation of a forgotten progressive icon and shed a little historical light on present-day political matters.


Vito Says: “[The gentleman from North Carolina, Rep. Barden] states that I press the class struggle. I have not put the class struggle into existence. As long as man can exploit his fellow man and exploit his labor, there is a struggle, and all we seek in a democracy is equality in bargaining. We seek genuine, collective bargaining in the light of that struggle. You cannot talk of equality under the law unless it is implemented with economic security. Anatole France once said: “The law in all of its majestic equality forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, beg on streets and steal their bread from shop windows.”

It is hard to imagine any Democrat taking up labor’s cudgel’s in that way on the floor of today’s House, but Marc, although he won primaries for both the Democratic and Republican parties, considered himself a member of the now departed American Labor Party.

Nonetheless, the newly-elected Democratic majority in the House of Representatives just passed a law empowering American workers to organize unions through a simple “card check” procedure instead of through a secret-ballot process overseen by the National Labor Relations Board.

Two days ago, the “Washington Post” expressed its disagreement with measure, saying it “would make it far easier for unions to organize.”


The “Post” correctly pointed out that the measure has little chance of getting past an inevitable (r)epublican filibuster or geo. w. bsh’s desk.

“That is a good thing,” the unsigned editorial states, “the Employee Free Choice Act would take a playing field tilted too far in the direction of employers and tip it way back in the other direction.”

Vito says: “Collective bargaining means what? It means equality in bargaining for both sides.”

For those not indoctrinated, a card check process would allow employees to unionize in a less expensive, less officious, and more open way. As things go now, there are all manner of legal hurdles and prohibitions to the natural politicking that comes with any campaign, let alone one to form a union.

Over the years, employers, and the “consultants” they pay piles of money to keep the House of Labor out of their business establishments, have grown adept at mining the legal treasure trove of measures bequeathed them largely by the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947.

Unions want the card check because they are tired of working for unionization through a process that diminishes or wipes out their victories altogether. They assert that when workers meeting to sign cards in favor of a union that bargains collectively for their wages and workplace rights, they fare much better than under the current conditions.

Fair enough right?

Well, the “Post,” while professing its dissatisfaction with the status quo, is pretty good at stating the employers’ side of things, noting, “employees who are skeptical of or opposed to bringing a union into the workplace deserve the protections of a secret-ballot election rather than having to face pressures from colleagues pushing them to sign unionization cards.”

But what about protection from intimidation by the boss? Back after Taft-Hartley was passed Vito said: “Working men and women are once again feeling the terror and intimidation that is so frequently the constant companion of those millions of Americans who work in factory and mill and mine. The degrading attitude toward working people that so long marked American employer-employee relations is once again returning to the plants. And the Taft-Hartley Act has brought it back.”

(This guy kicked-ass)!

The “Post” says, “the card-check arrangement would give labor too much power to spring unions on employers,” but the bottom line is that employers spring unions upon themselves. Where there is good pay, democratic rules, and dignified treatment, a combative union can hardly take root.

You cannot read an article about American labor in today’s mainstream media without the causes of, “globalization, upward mobility of workers, decentralization of the workplace” and a whole slew of other empty-headed concepts being listed.

In reality, it was the passing of Taft-Hartley that sowed the seeds of labor’s demise in this country.

the highway scribe has covered the union movement, both here and abroad, for a long time and the union movement is capable of many bone-headed, repressive, dinosaur-era moves. But for all that, organizing labor syndicates has undisputedly increased the freedoms and filled the empty pockets of workers worldwide.

Vito says: “You cannot have free America without free labor unions; you cannot have free labor unions when you deprive the American labor unions of their fundamental rights...”

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