Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Congress: Checked-Out on Card Check

Alas, the elections of 2006 were enough to stem, in part, the right-wing assault on the things that make us unique and democratic, but not enough to permit any kind of progressive momentum.

Maybe that’s being greedy. Not so long ago it seemed that nothing could stop the Bush-Cheney juggernaut and its shredding of our environmental protections, civil rights, democratic checks-and-balances.

The elections, the installation of the first woman speaker, the assumption of committee chairmanships seemed to promise much.

Alas, the king is still at the top, finding solace in his veto pen, which suits him well; so adept at tearing down and so miserable at building up. The compassionate conservative.

And so the “New York Times” reports that the unions’ “card-check neutrality” bit the dust in the Senate yesterday.

Card-check neutrality allows unions to organize by getting workforce members to simply sign-off on their desire to join a union without all the cumbersome, outdated an ineffective provisions required by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) kicking in.

Card check's important today because unions, with all their flaws (and they are many) are still the best way of juicing pay rates and beefing up benefits, among other advantages.

The middle class is disappearing as a reality in this country, and an uptick in organization would mean more collective bargaining and less of a free hand for the corporate raiders currently ruling our lives.

We did an installation of “Vito Says...” some time back encouraging passage of the measure. (That’s veto during a New York waterfront strike long ago, around the time the NLRA was enacted).

The Republicans, pro-corporate, cloaked their opposition to card check in a desire to see the sanctity of the secret ballot maintained.

As with Iraq, they always find democracy when its most convenient for them. Meanwhile, "their" court has been slaying the rights of stockholders visa vis corporate boards, busting the union agency shop fee, and your First Amendment protection to have “Bong Hits for Jesus” on a t-shirt, in a series of recent decisions.

Free country, you see.

On card check, they called the secret ballot a “hallmark of democracy.”

That sounds good, but anybody whose informed on labor rights, which is just about nobody, is aware that campaigns for union representation are the domain of highly paid, savvy employer “consultants” who have made a mockery of the NLRA’s original provisions and that, even when a union wins an organizing campaign, bosses have found a million loopholes around the obligation to sit down and bargain collectively with workers who have chosen to do so - a real “hallmark.”

Mitch McConnell, who leads the Senate’s Republican caucus, is quoted in the "Times" piece as saying, “By preserving the secret ballot in union organizing drives, Republicans made sure America’s 140 million workers are not intimidated or coerced into siding with either labor or management.”

And that will be the last time, for a long time, Mitch will be working on worker protections.

His wife, Elaine Chao, heads-up the federal Labor Department; a place where the rights of employees are whittled daily into the life we’ve come to know without legal protection on civil rights, firings, safety, overtime requirements, nice vacations, and workplace democracy generally.

Sorry Vito. We let ya down.

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