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PORTSIDE  September 2011, Week 3

PORTSIDE September 2011, Week 3

Subject:

Fired for Organizing a Union

From:

Portside Moderator <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Mon, 19 Sep 2011 00:26:20 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (109 lines)

Fired for Organizing a Union
Companies dump workers for union activity all the time,
and they often get away with it.
By Josh Eidelson
Talking Union
September 13, 2011
http://talkingunion.wordpress.com/2011/09/13/fired-for-organizing-a-union/

Last month Target fired Tashawna Green - but not for
being bad at her job. They fired her, she says, for
trying to make her job better. Green, a 21-year-old
single mom, was the most public supporter of a campaign
to unionize the workers at her Long Island, New York
store. Before an unsuccessful union vote there, she told
The New York Times and other media outlets about the
challenge of supporting her daughter on $8 an hour and
insufficient hours. Her photo appeared in several
newspapers.

Target, which has more than 1,760 American stores,
earned $704 million in profits in the second quarter.
Like its big-box competitor Walmart, Target has zero
union employees in the United States. That means none of
Target's workers may bargain collectively over wages or
the company's refusal to schedule more workers for full-
time hours. More than 50 of Costco's nearly 600 stores,
in contrast, are unionized.

Target isn't claiming Green didn't show up to work, or
couldn't do the job. Instead, the company put out a
statement saying she was fired for acting "in an overly
hostile, disruptive manner." Green and representatives
of the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union say
that's just a tricky way of saying she wanted to join a
union, and Target doesn't want its employees to have
that option. The UFCW is filing charges with the
National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), saying Target
illegally punished her for engaging in activism.

It would be nice to say that what happened to Green is
unusual, or that going to the government means she'll
get justice. But the truth is that companies fire
workers for union activity all the time, and they often
get away with it.

Research from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) shows
that more than a third of companies respond to union
elections by firing union activists. Other tactics that
make workers fear losing their jobs are even more
common, according to EPI. Under the current law,
companies dead-set on keeping out unions have a lot to
gain by firing workers like Tashawna Green. Firing union
supporters removes them from the workplace and sends a
chilling message to their co-workers.

Since none of us is perfect, it can be hard to prove to
the government that union activism was the reason
someone was fired - with appeals, the process can take
years. Even if a worker wins a case, usually the
stiffest punishment a company faces is bringing the
worker back to work, paying the wages she missed (minus
any money earned at another job in the meantime), and
posting a notice saying that it won't fire workers for
union organizing in the future. Unfortunately, that's a
small price to pay for refusing to negotiate with your
employees over their wages and benefits.

During the two years that Democrats held the presidency
and both houses of Congress, it looked like the Employee
Free Choice Act might pass. That bill would have tripled
the damages for companies that fire workers for union
activism, as well as given workers the option of winning
union recognition just by signing up a majority of their
co-workers. This majority sign-up ("card check")
solution, which is the main way workers have won the
opportunity to join unions in recent years, sparked a
debate over its fairness. But there wasn't enough
discussion of the problem that inspired it. Workers like
Tashawna Green, who speak up to improve their jobs, too
often lose their jobs as a result.

Workers who step up to organize their workplaces are
really whistleblowers. They break a silence that can
otherwise leave people thinking that the problems
they're experiencing are theirs alone. They create an
avenue for addressing workplace issues that can
otherwise hurt not only workers, but also consumers and
communities. These workplace whisteblowers deserve the
respect of our culture and the protections of our legal
system.

___________________________________________

Portside aims to provide material of interest to people
on the left that will help them to interpret the world
and to change it.

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