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Employees' Free Choice?

(Photo by Robin Holland)

This week, the JOURNAL explored the present state – and potential future – of America’s unions.

As of 2007, approximately 12 percent of America’s workforce was unionized, down from 20 percent in 1980 and a height of more than a third of U.S. workers in the mid-1940s. Last year unions spent heavily on campaign contributions for Democratic candidates and to promote controversial legislation known as the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT summarized EFCA as follows:

“The key provision of the Employee Free Choice Act could make it more feasible for the workers of smaller businesses to unionize. Under current law, in order for a union to be recognized at a business, 30 percent of the workers of the business in question must express support for joining a union. This is then followed by a secret ballot election where half of the workers must vote in favor of joining. The Employee Free Choice Act would make this election unnecessary and allow the union to be recognized through a process known as "card check." A majority of workers simply need to sign cards expressing their intent to join the union, and this process need not be secret.”

Supporters of EFCA contend that larger unions might empower workers and help rebuild the middle class, while opponents argue that scrapping the secret vote could subject workers to coercion and intimidation. Former Senator George McGovern, the Democratic presidential nominee in 1972, explained his opposition to EFCA in a column for the WALL STREET JOURNAL:

“As a longtime friend of labor unions, I must raise my voice against pending legislation I see as a disturbing and undemocratic overreach not in the interest of either management or labor... There are many documented cases where workers have been pressured, harassed, tricked and intimidated into signing cards that have led to mandatory payment of dues. Under EFCA, workers could lose the freedom to express their will in private, the right to make a decision without anyone peering over their shoulder, free from fear of reprisal... To fail to ensure a vote free of intimidation and coercion from all sides would be a betrayal of what we have always championed.”

Responding to critics' objections, JOURNAL guest and EFCA supporter Leo Gerard, International President of United Steelworkers, said:

“What is a greater vote than putting my name on a card, signing my name and saying I want this union?... The fact of the matter is that kind of myth is the myth that's created by the union busters... [Bosses] come into the workplace now and call the worker into the room and say, 'you know, buddy, if you join this union we're gonna move this plant to Mexico. Now go out and decide to vote.' What are you going to do when your family and you are making $9 an hour, $10 an hour, and the boss is taking home $10 million? What are you going to do with your so-called 'secret ballot' vote?"

What do you think?

  • Do you support the Employee Free Choice Act? Why or why not?
  • Would larger and more powerful unions have a positive effect on the U.S. economy? Explain.
  • In the global economy, Americans increasingly compete against workers from nations with lower wages and standards of living. To what extent can unions protect American workers from these pressures?

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    I support the Employee Free Choice Act. In 1970 while working for Daisy Heddon in Rogers Ark. we signed pledge cards to join the steel workers union. About 70% of the workers signed the cards saying they would like to be represented by the union. I was making $2.51 an hour with a Christmas bonus of 0.10 one year and 0.15 the next.. Each year we also got a raise one year 0.15 the next year 0.10. Bonus and raise every year totaled 0.25 and some Knotts Berry Farm Jellies. The year I signed the card Mr. Heddon came out of the office before the start of every shift to make a speech to all employees the day before the election. At that speech he told everyone he didn't care how we voted. But if we voted for the union he would no longer be able to give us our Christmas bonus. It doesn't sound like much but the way the bonus worked was based on the amount of years you had been with company. The more years the more bonus. Some people were getting $2-3-4 thousand dollar bonuses. Guess what happened the vote was about 65% no 35% yes. If it had went the other way we all would had received about a $2.00 an hour raise plus health care and paid vacations. Now if you work 2000 hours a year for $2.00 and hour more there's your bonus. But the scare tactics of loosing that bonus turned that election around. When a group of workers wants to represented by a union and the other side says they should have a secret vote then the bosses should stay out of it. Why can't a worker ask his fellow workers if they would like to be union without being affraid of loosing his or her job. If these people want to be fair let the workers decide without any scare tactics from the bosses.


    Something to think about...
    In a Democratic Society; the citizens should be the demand side of economics not banks, big business and politicians.

    I support the Employee Free Choice Act. I wish that employers would do the right thing and allow for free elections without intimidation and threats of being fired. I have experienced the abuse at the hand of an employer who feel they are above the law. The NLRB is weak and the penalties they impose if they indeed side with the employee are weak and ineffective. I know that employers will find a way around the EFCA and like now keep employees from pursuing their right to organize. The penalties for breaking the law needs to be made stronger and our society needs to stop worshiping at the alter of big business and profit and start looking out for its citizens and their welfare. Remember the saying " an honest days pay for an honest days labor". That is all I am looking for. It is time to share the wealth as well as the burden.

    Joe, 4 cans short of a sixpack= Two-can Sam

    We say at the mission that Obama is not talking to Joe Sixpack anymore, that with this Depression he's only stringing along Two-can Sam.
    It's pretty accurate. Working families now have (after inflation) only about one third of the after-expenses income they had in 1980. And that's the lucky ones.

    Billy Bob,
    How right you are...
    We have the fox guarding the hen house and then wonder why there are so many missing chickens.
    Instead of a "chicken in every pot"; we get lead poisoning in our swill. Then, we wonder why our leaders are one can short of a six pack.

    Getting old takes a lot of getting used to...
    I try to keep up with current communication expectations; while the spirit is willing the mind is trying to remember the right words.
    I appreciate your exceptional intelligence and encouragement. It would be most outstanding if we could do from coast to coast and influence everyone in between to "get it right". There are too many bad ideas getting all of the press. It seems that entertainment has become finding new and better ways to self-destruct.
    Change is meaningless unless it is for the better.

    "It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped."
    Robert Kennedy

    Management of unions, & companies & enviromentalist have created a perfect storm for loss of manufacturing jobs in the USA.

    Unions' demanded more,more, more; the EPA demanded less, less, less, & manuf. found it could solve the EPA lawsuits, get the unions off its back & pay less for products by moving manuf. jobs overseas.

    Consumers liked the lower prices & now the chickens have come home to find no roost. Go figure!

    The same mentality has now turned to the Wolves of wall street & the Pirhias of politics to solve this finance mess. No surprise!

    Mainstreet, stand up and be counted--you are the only chance this country has! BUT...
    you are the same idiots that did not stand up when the DNP denied my vote--so we really do need CHANGE!

    Billy Bob, Florida

    Mumia W.: "Tools for Conviviality" by Ivan Illich presents a logical humane rationale for a "low energy" economy. For instance he posits the most efficient speed of travel at about 15mph (human scale, bicycling). Anything faster is wasteful and stress producing. He also explains "iatrogenic" tendencies; that is, why large institutional medicine and education produce as many problems as they solve. I always liked working as part of a small team, and so these ideas make sense to me. Grady Lee Howard's insistence that we develop a calorie powered transportation network nationwide (trails,sidewalks and paths between every place we go)makes good sense. We could get healthier, get car costs off our backs and meet one another at eye level as the 3 million people at theInauguration did.

    David Eddy: You're pretty cool for your age. Old guys spech patterns create misunderstandings sometimes. I'm sorry if I haven't read closely or been careful in my expressions. If we weren't on two different coasts we could do plenty of good together.

    @David Eddy, January 29, 2009 6:26 PM;

    You are correct David in saying that "money is printed to make it possible to buy the products and services," but you're forgetting one important component: energy. Without energy economic activity slows to a crawl or even stops as millions of people die: (flash presentation).

    If we don't move quickly to create a low-energy economy our current depression will become a permanent depression because we won't have the energy to create a new economy.

    The difference between Zimbabwe and America is oil. America still has oil and Zimbabwe doesn't. When America runs out of oil, we should prepare to discard one billion dollar bills into the trash as we hunt in dumpsters for little bits of discarded food.

    I agree with you...
    It is a fact of life that the middle class support the government, the wealthy and the down trodden. Until the middle class realize that their chances of becoming rich is next to zilch and work together to protect their interests; they are doomed to being a wage slave. They need to understand the game plan and not be influenced by gimmicks.
    Education is creating patsies instead of self-motivated people. It is necessary that people educate themselves as well as jump through the education system hoops.

    No, David Eddy, corporate capitalism has never worked. Not only does it not allow the population to establish demand, but it is by definition an updraft of wealth and power. It tells us to buy what it prefers to make using wage slaves.

    Today it was announced that the top 400 U.S. incomes (just individual incomes now) were together 200 billion dollars, and that their effective total tax rate was about 16%. Most of these incomes were capital gains. Contrast this with the lucky full time Walmart employee ($10/hr at best) who pays out 50% after Social Security, FDIC, state, and local taxes. And why is this? The entire federal government operates on about 3 trillion dollars a year while global business activity dwarfs it in scale. The government doesn't protect us. It dictates business needs. Working people are as good as they can be, under these circumstances. They give to charity and see chair-warmers from the upper middle class absorb most of it while operating as gatekeepers to keep the poor away. The fundraisers get a million a year and the chairpersons even more. People try to help one another, but are soon swamped when they take friends, relatives and strangers into their dwellings, while government and business conspire to demolish and redevelop affordable housing. If you really believe the majority of Americans are not trying their best and do not mean others well, then you are blind to what wealth and power do to successful people. Nearly 3 million poor dumb Americans had a love-fest as Obama was inaugurated, and I have yet to hear of one arrest.

    How economics is supposed to work...
    The demand side of economics is the people's purchasing power. They decide what they need and want. The supply side of economics provides these goods and services.
    Money is printed to make it possible to buy the products and services,
    The money is also used to manufacture the goods, train workers, pay wages, develop new or better products and provide services.
    Value systems are established to cover the cost of production and services plus overhead and reasonable profits.
    Federal reserves, Banks and Stock Markets are intended to improve the efficiency of exchange.

    As long as people are humanitarian, honest, trustworthy and reasonable; the system works just fine.
    Economics is a system of trust and fidelity.

    When people are sociopathic, cruel, greedy, unpatriotic and selfish the system is doomed to failure.

    People who have no sense of value, no moral compass and are not team players are a threat to the stability of their society.

    Joyce: They're not Republicans; they're Imposters. I mourn the loss of real Republicans like Christopher Shays. Imposters work directly for the wealthy class and global corporations, as do many Democrats (Sellouts). Business dwarfs government in terms of money and power and that is why government no longer protects or moderates for the people. I don't know if government is too little or business too big. I guess it depends upon your solution. When a few people own most everything it is not surprising that the voters are powerless. The wage and wealth gaps are our primary problem. They were created by the imbalance between the majority and the few significant corporate owners. People like W. Buffet and B. Gates can give lip service but decline to reverse or even slow the current. We are governed by corporate boards. The Imposters and the Sellouts are about the same: Useless!

    I am a little disappointed so far; but I am will to give the President some more time.
    Franjly I think that he gave too much away to the republicans who only in the end 'stabbed" him in his back. There should have been a lot more for spending on inferstructure and the emerging 'green' economy.

    That sounds ingenious to me. (You mean dual not duel, double not score settling). How about a longer explanation for us slow ones? Be careful or you'll become a new Henry George.

    My take on dual economy:
    1.A system that puts a basic complement of production based upon human need first, then uses any surplus for speculation and experimentation. All citizens would receive rudimentary food, shelter, medical services and political participation guaranteed, and could work smarter, harder or longer for more and different stuff.

    2.A worker owned and managed infrastructure of basic production would exist parallel to a new more humane and regulated form of capitalism.

    3.Various lifestyle sectors would co-exist independently (free market, socialistic,libertarian, religious service orders, and so on). People could enroll in the sector of choice.

    David, I apologize if I misunderstood what you intended, but keep talking.

    I'm posting on Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009, a day after the Obama stimulus package was passed by the House with not one single Republican vote even after Republican demands for tax cuts were made, items such as Planned Parenthood help for people on Medicaid was removed, and other items I can't, off the top of my head, remember amended to suit them.

    My words of advice for Obama and anyone else who thinks there's bipartisanship or reasoning with the Republicans: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

    To who it may concern...

    Binary systems:

    What we need is a duel economic system; one system that is based on practical application of supply and demand and one that is based on speculation and chance.

    Other Binary Systems...
    Computers; "0", "1".
    Reality; Physical Reality,
    Conceptual Reality.
    Justice; Criminal, Domestic Equity.

    We need to get the numbers right.

    "Speak the truth and shame the Devil."
    François Rabelais

    My dad was an optimistic pessimist. He would say,"Things are looking up".
    "They are flat on their back!"
    It will take a whole lot more than "cynicism and brain storming" to get the ship of state right side up again. Trickle down needs to be replaced with buoying up from underneath.
    On the subject of "showing my Age"...
    I think the young whipersnappers are finally catching on to the fact that they are being had.
    At least they understand that what they have is not working and they need something else. The problem is that they do not know what that something else is. I know what it is and hope that they will somehow get the message. In the meantime, back at the ranch, time is fleeting and there are many miles to go.

    David E.: Have you watched "The Trials of Robert oppenheimer" on PBS American Experience? How could anyone accept that truth and then think a cadre of independent minded intellectuals and academics is available in this country to sort out economic crimes. Almost all economists are bought ideologues presenting theories and plans that serve the owning class.

    And EQUITY, how lamentable! There is no equity left in this economic system. Through deregulation the resultant gambling debt has finally swallowed capitalism whole. What would be the point in sorting out geometrically expanding negative monetary values? It would be like untangling silly string (come in aerosol can for parties) without breaking the strands. It's time to clear up the partying and start anew, clean slate. Labor creates your existence by the hour: a truism which always remains valid. The means of production and the imagination that will save the planet have always belonged to those who do the work. We have lived a fiction too long and it has nearly been our demise. My understanding of emergency justice is well described in Bertolt Brecht's "Caucasian Chalk Circle" wherein a notorious outlaw is appointed judge (and does quite an admirable job). The old ways are already gone and the institutions you count on are lost mirages. Please stop showing your age. It turns the young people off.

    Note: Before the collapse we already lived in a system where medical debt could take your house and everything you own in a matter of days. If you think you're secure in your property now you're in for a surprise. And it won't be the poor people in China sending the bill. It will be the prominent people right in your own community, as they serve their masters higher up. I didn't see the California Japanese or the Polish gypsies getting any property back. Lying to yourself won't help you sleep, but a good day of cynicism and brainstorming will.

    We all live in a yellow submarine and there is only so much space available.
    We are submerged in our environment and need adequate social systems to stay on course of course...
    While we still need the present justice system to deal with criminal matters; we also need a separate branch of justice to deal with civil matters.
    Our society would be more equitable if we had a system of justice that dealt with equity as well as criminal justice. The equitable justice system would be populated with social science type people (such as economists, cultural specialists and humanities specialists) instead of criminal justice type people. This duel system would be a better balanced justice system and provide people the protection and quality life styles they want and need.
    "Tyranny is always better organized than freedom."
    Charles Pierre Péguy

    "The question we ask today is not whether government is too big or too small, but whether it works."
    President Barrack Obama
    The American people are looking to the new administration to rejuvenate our economy, resolve the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, revitalize our schools and repair our environment. On each count, even if Obama gets the policy right, the public's expectations will only be met if these policies are well executed. Without dramatic improvements in the way government does its work, they won't be.

    Animosity: That's what you saw when corporate federalist John Roberts became contrary in swearing in President Obama. The justice system is the firewall between a people needing reform measures and the business community. In Argentina they actually have had to seize the manufacturing facilities and begin operations ahead of the political establishment. F.D. Roosevelt actually tried to enlarge the Supreme Court to keep his urgent programs from being declared unconstitutional. It may be so late in the progression that Americans either have lost interest in working (for themselves) altogether, or so late industry can't be revived here (even in a greener form). My hope is that as things get harder they also become clearer and that the population will gradually identify their needs, needs that are not being met by business now. Needs that are being frustrated by substitute articles designed to maximize profit. Coke once mocked us as "the real thing." It is corn syrup and scorched caramel and cinnamon and caffeine and tap water (once,traced cocaine). Water is good right by itself, and not in a plastic bottle.

    I get tickled when Republicans complain about Senate delays (during Bush II) in confirming judges. We continue to suffer from business judges Reagan appointed, and W picked Alito and Roberts for their youth. The business community has pooped its pants and wants the people to clean it up and bring fresh clothes. If the legal system is good for anything they should be doing their attendant job and cleaning up that mess. Our judicial system has been haphazard for 220 years and is nothing to brag about. We sit with muscles clenched and eyes wide at every decision because it has proven so crazy, unreliable and unfair. The courts have crushed more labor organizing than the National Guard. (Maybe the wishful goody-goodies could write nice letters to the Supreme Court, our most corrupt branch.)

    I have no problem with worker owned industry. It would certainly be more consistent with a democratic society. There could still be competition in the market place to provide incentive to produce better products. Government incentive to do product research and improved manufacturing processes could also be implemented. The problem is getting the greedy fingers of capitalistic demigods to release their grip. The only hope for your proposed solution to our present dilemma would be if it could be done through the Justice system. This would mean that the justice system would have to be modified to assure both Justice and Equity. It would also mean that there would be more control over the capital to assure equity.
    Randomness would have to be replaced with rational intent. What a novel idea.
    "Do anything, but let it produce joy."
    Henry Miller

    With advertising and the "success ethic" after about 1920 supply began to elicit and determine demand. That's what supply side means- they tell you what you want (which is whatever they're making) and you feel the need to buy it. Old timey market economics as theorized by Adam Smith and David Ricardo may never have existed because by the time of Alexander Hamilton's Treasury Department the psychological motor of the economy was speculation in land, bonds, shipping and slavery. Already the great commercial multiplier was debt, for the people and their government. The greatest contribution to elite capital was always exploited labor, enslaved and waged. Keynesian (Galbraithian) economics is a more realistic variation of orthodox economics, but it never addresses the sustainability of either capitalism or the environment. Didn't you read what I said about how worker-owners who live in the community implement the "Golden Rule"? Compounded debt always produces a society unable to afford a decent existence as it erodes the carrying capacity of the Earth. Money is a fiction that obeys elite capitalist need. There is no way out of the cage without rejecting the game. Can you imagine if all Americans were loyal members of the same union brother and sisterhood? That'll be the day! Everything made with diligence like Shaker furniture. The best way to save a tree is to make it right the first time, and then make it last.

    I could care less what they call it or how they manage it...
    All I am interested in is that there is an equitable system of economics that supports people's needs and desires in a quality society. The demand side of economics has to be able to support the supply side of economics or our economic system will collapse.
    What does it benefit anyone if the country goes down in flames?
    What malicious parasite has caused people's brains to be so addled?

    Dave, I was only saying Tye may be closed minded because of his position, education and age.
    1. If we could foist off all the advantages of a union on Tye and call it a Goober, would that be OK?
    2.Or if young people invented an institution or practice that protected worker interests better than a union (no matter what they called it) would that be OK?
    3.Or if people automated so much hardly anyone had to do any real work and were all we guaranteed good food, housing, a choice of health care, freedom of movement and walking around money, would that be OK?

    You and I won't last much longer and we have little work left in us. We need to teach younger people what their human rights are because we won't be around. It's little use to argue with brainwashed or self-interested people.

    History supports Tye's statement: "It's a struggle on both sides."

    However, Tye's institutional model is not supported. The continued existence of any system involves cooperation of the parties involved. One cannot change a system through cooperation, only through co-option.

    By the way, economics is not preventing unions from continuing to be the answer. Political systems that form economic policies are preventing both union effectiveness and economic justice at home and abroad.

    I think Tye's unapologetic admission of her occupational / class misrepresentation is one more manifestation of her current inability or unwillingness to operate without a hidden agenda.


    You are absolutely correct in your assumption. As stated in my original post, I'm 28 years old.

    The only thing I was less thna honest about was my occupation. I'm not a general laborer, but an HR Manager with a business degree as well.

    None of that changes any point I made in any post, though. The wages and lifestyles I described as well as the size of the company are all exactly true. We are a 15,000(+) employee company that is non-union. As the HR Manager, I can still honestly say that most people on the floor take home at least as much or even more than I, or most of our managers do. Not through the threats of a union, but by working with us on fixing issues and making all of us more profitable along the way.

    The point that Dave never got was that the mistakes of the past really can't be repeated. I'm the first to admit that's in large part due to the fights of the unions. However, most of the changes brought about through the struggles of the early unions are now laws that cost millions to ignore.

    The fact remains that most unions now simply argue for higher wages to "close the gap" between the average worker and the CEO. The problem doesn't lie in the wages of the average worker so much as the highly inflated CEO pay and that money not being able to be used elsewhere.

    But the fact remains that unions DO NOT have the ability to guarantee jobs won't be lost or healthcare costs won't go up. They can negotiate fixed amounts in either one, but all that does is put more pressure on the company due to tighter margins b/c the employer can't control raw material costs or health care costs. All of which are constantly rising.

    It's a struggle on both sides. The fight needs to be against the system in general, not against one another. I fully understand and appreciate the contributions unions have made to get us to where we're at. However, I also see the economics preventing them from continuing to be the answer based on their current approach.

    I have talked to my son about economics. He has a degree in business. He considers working people to be wage slaves.
    As you well know; people soon forget what it took to get them where they are at and end up paying the price all over again.
    My concern is not for myself but for my children and my grandchildren that they do not lose everything that so many have fought and died to gain.
    There is a big difference between reality and false assumptions.

    I'd let Tye be, David Eddy. You're both smart guys arguing over theory.

    I'll bet Tye is under 30. One time I went up to deliver a car to Wesleyan University. (I think the town was Middletown, Conn.) Anyway they were examining the proposition (general studies I think) that "the time for unions is past." Bush had proposed an ownership society of investors (2003)and that was the world into which students would graduate. Anyway I found the car owner in that class and got drawn into a heated discussion. I shocked myself by being about as knowledgeable as the instructor, a pretty redheaded lady graduate student in economics. She was fair,even writing the agreed terminology and concepts on her projector transparency. She and I took turns for about 15 minutes and then she thanked me, explaining how it was almost like time travel talking to someone from the past. I listened until the end and then ate with some of them in the cafeteria. They didn't really hate or rule out unions. They mostly hoped for something new and better, something they'd had a hand in. Social security didn't get privatized and many investments failed. Things are always changing. I am depending on younger people to invent new ways. You are too, David Eddy. Ask your children about unions, and really listen.


    I have no rebuttal b/c it doesn't warrant one. No rational person can honestly try and compare a military defending it's borders with a union "protecting" worker's rights. This isn't a war, and if you are trying to make it out to be one, you will lose every time. A successful working environment requires compromise, not brute force.

    And while I may not have touched on that point, you have yet to give an actual rebuttal to a single one of my points outside of showing that you aren't educated enough on this topic to have an actual discussion/debate without having to resort to name-calling.

    In your case, you're probably better off to pay a union your hard-earned dollars to fight the fight for you because you've proven to all of us on this site you aren't capable of dealing with problems requiring skills beyond those of the average 12-year-old.

    And you can call me any name you'd like, but I can point out that I continue to proudly work for a non-union company, have never been fired, and continue to provide for my family in my solidly middle-class lifestyle.

    On the other hand, I'd be willing to bet that you're perception of all employers being out to get you likely played in to your being terminated "without cause". If you voiced your concerns in the same "rational" manner you've demonstrated on this site, whose fault is that?

    First off, I won't work on your comparison of a union with a country. Two VERY different things.

    Secondly, there are hundreds of thousands of workers across the nation that are living proof that we do not need a union to protect our "human and economic rights". That's exactly my point in this whole thing and I have yet to be proven wrong. That mindset is the problem. "I'm too weak to stand up for myself, so I'll pay someone else to do it for me." Instead, make informed decisions about where to work, where to apply, and who to do business with. If people were truly that tired of the way Wal-Mart and the like does business and treats it's employees, they would stop shopping there and stop applying there. But they don't, so Wal-Mart continues to be able to use it's bullying tactics and people continue to support them with profit.

    And your statements are exactly correct ... "It is self-evident by our present situation that many people will do what is expedient and in their own interest with no consideration for others." Yet you somehow seem to have this belief that union organizers and operators are somehow different, better and concerned with my well-being. They aren't any different ... they're just as concerned with making their money off of MY working to line their pockets, just like an employer is.

    The difference being that if I don't like something my employer is doing, I have the right to leave as my own personal choice. If I belong to a union and they don't like something, they strike and I'm not allowed to cross the line, whether I agree with it or not. My employer pays me to put up with their rules. An argument for unions is basically saying that I should pay them to be forced to play by their rules.

    My argument is a simple one that you still haven't defeated ... why should I rely on someone else to fight my fight whose only interest is to make money off of me? If I'm going to do that, I may as well just pay my employer a portion of my wages back to stay open. I've got better odds going that route than I do relying on a union to keep my job here.

    This isn't the Depression Age where a union is fighting for standard hours, safer working conditions, basic human rights at the job site. The government has set overtime laws, rest periods, minimum wage, OSHA, etc.

    Now, I also agree that minimum wage isn't enough for a living wage, but I'm sorry, I flipped burgers in high school ... it just isn't worth more. That side of reality is missing in most cases as well.

    I see more unionized companies going under and shipping jobs overseas and all they can do about it is picket and scream about it, but to what avail? NewPage is still closed, auto makers are still begging for a bailout ... what good have the unions done for them? My non-union co-workers and I keep coming in to work, putting out good product, collecting paychecks, and going on with life. A solidly middle-class life. Middle class isn't gone, it's just a matter of everyone wanting upper-class wages in middle-class jobs. Then when their attempt at upper-class life on their middle-class pay fails them, it must mean that they need a union to come rescue them.

    Again, I fully agree that almost every CEO makes far too much money. Money which would be better served being put into employee wage pools or even capital spending on the business. But that doesn't happen and unions can't force it. No union, to my knowledge, has ever negotiated a CEO's pay into their contract. Instead, they argue that the workers should just get paid more to make some ground on the gap. This makes for tighter margins, which makes for less profitability, which leads that same overpaid CEO to decide to move the production facilities elsewhere. Again, no union can prevent that. If the unions are truly in this for my good ... focus on changing that equation, not simply getting me higher wages for a shorter period. That might get my vote, but if that change was made, it would put the unions out of business ... so the debate continues b/c they want theirs, too.

    Saying that belonging to a union is a cop out is like saying that being a citizen of a country is a cop out. Countries have armies to protect their country and workers need unions to protect their human and economic rights.
    This is the only way to maintain a balance between industry and quality of life. Otherwise, you have slavery and greed.
    If it were a perfect world and people did only what was the right thing to do; unions would not be necessary. It is self-evident by our present situation that many people will do what is expedient and in their own interest with no consideration for others.
    This is a fact of life that has to be prevented.
    As you say there are exceptions but our economics is based on profit as first priority.
    That needs to change to prevent the collapse of our economy.

    To Dave Eddy:

    You seem to be jumping to conlusions about my post that I never said. You also didn't actually respond to a single point I made. I'm not necessarily for or against unions, in general. I'm against what the unions have turned in to. The argument most bring for the need for the EFCA is simply that all employers are bad and out to screw over everyone they can to make every cent they can.

    That simply isn't true. While there are absolutely some that play by those rules, there are plenty that don't. I absolutely agree with the posters on here calling out Wal-Mart and the likes that play by extremely under-handed rules. But not all corporations are Wal-Mart. There's a reason I refuse to shop at Wal-Mart. But there's also a reason I refuse to allow someone else to be my voice ... principal.

    The fact of the matter is that Wal-Mart exists and functions well because of one thing ... greed. They sell at lower prices and people want more. Everyone points at the large corporations and says it's all about greed. That's the same principal that many unions operate under as well. The name of the game in most unions is to make as much money as possible. The more wages their members get, the more they get to skim off in dues. How is it really any different than what Wal-Mart is doing?

    My point is simply that I, and many from my generation, choose to be our own voice and simply choose better employers to work for and be patrons of.

    If the unions were truly out to keep jobs in the U.S. and work on getting people better benefits, they'd be focusing on negotiating sound, FAIR contracts that don't require companies to operate with slim price margins or look overseas to become more profitable.

    They would then turn around and rather than spending "my" money they've skimmed in dues on trying to grow themselves to make more money, but they would put it toward lobbying to fix the health care issues in the country. Our employers aren't setting the health care costs. They're dealing it with it the same as I am. I'm smart enough to understand that just because my boss is in management, doesn't mean they get discounts at the hospital.

    My point is simply that too many unions hide behind the guise of being the protectors of the huddled masses against the big, mean corporations when many of them are run the same as the corporations they're pointing to.

    It doesn't need to be as adversarial as many unions are trying to make it out to be. It's these adversarial unions that are negotiating the contracts forcing companies to close their doors here. And all the while, the uinons can do nothing to prevent it from happening once the decision is made. The faith people are putting in the unions is unfounded. Once a business decides to do something for the business, the unions are helpless to prevent it. But they don't tell you that when they make their pitch for your membership. The unions want to gain as much membership as they can so they can make more money and become larger and more powerful. In the end, they can guarantee nothing. So what am I paying them for?

    I, for one, would rather keep my money and be my own voice and my own compass. Not blindly hand it over to the union "corporation" hoping for promises that they can't control.

    I've come to accept that as a general laborer, I'm not going to own a $500k home and make $250k/year. It's simply called reality. Let's call it what it is. I agree that many CEO's are highly overpaid, but that doesn't mean I have to expect the same, then turn around and hope my employer doesn't close it's doors because of it. But that doesn't mean I can't live a nice life and still do the things I love, while still having job security.

    Too many unions don't get that, and that's the reason I choose to be my own voice ... successfully so, I might add. I own a new home and newer vehicles. I'm firmly middle class, meanign not having the best/brightest of everything, but not lacking anything either. All while working for a solid, non-union, large corporation. Just like 15,000 of my co-workers.

    Rather than expecting my wages to meet the bar I'd like to dream of, I've learned to live within my means. That's ultimately what the problem is. I've worked hard/smart to get where I'm at in life, and I resent people telling me they can't do the same without a union doing it for them. That's nothing more than cop-out.

    Klark Mouvinon,
    I appreciate your comprehensive post...
    I have no problem with supporting a small precentage of our population who fall into poverty.
    I do have a problem with supporting a large percentage of our population in poverty because of greed and mismanagement. The present economic system is both an abstraction and a superstition when it should be an equitable and efficient system for the distribution of goods and services.
    According to the Pythagoreans; everything comes down to crunching the right numbers. These numbers should be consistent with the four cardinal virtues; Wisdom, Justice, Temperance and Courage.
    A vital element of industry is a system of auditing that assures that people are the first consideration.
    Human life should be first concern in all human transactions.
    Your statement...
    "No abstraction or superstition should stand in the way of human life, health, privacy, dignity or personal expression" is pivotal to a humane social constitution.
    Consensus and implementation are essential to a Democratic system of society.
    If we as a nation are going to make meaningful change; it will have to include these stated principles.

    David Eddy: Union Good! I think we agree on that in principle, though we differ spiritually. I know you don't want a slave state. I think we both have to agree with almost everything Vince Wilyard and PublicD have said, but I think that package is incomplete.

    1. You complain about supporting the poor. That is mostly a revolving group today as we swim between bergs like polar bears. Poverty is a by-product of elite prosperity and a tool (Hell on earth, right in your face) of social control. As Bill and Jack agree: "It is extremely difficult to become or remain extremely rich or extremely poor in a fair and just society." I thought Christian empathy and the resultant social justice were your main policy all along, Dave.
    2. If unions are the last barricade to a slave existence it is a fait accompli. People conceived and made, and fought for unions before they existed, and something similar can occur again. Similar I say because the design of working people's associations is up to younger people than we. Let's be content to observe and comment.
    3. I hope you noticed PublicD's requirement that we shouldn't surrender our human rights at the company gate. That was the most important principle he stated. I do not see how that is feasible unless all workers have a voice in management and a stake in ownership. (See, I believe in property, just in a new format.)
    4.Considering the above points: The design of products and the mode of manufacture then become subject to first hand volition on the part of workers who are also typical citizens. Anything they make becomes subject to the Golden Rule by default because they are making things for themselves and people much like themselves. They will naturally provide quality, safety, reliability and harmony at an affordable price in relation to consensus-apportioned wages and benefits.
    5. I think universal health care would go a long way toward making industry vital and securing a new social contract. It is essential because public health deterioration is becoming a national security issue.
    6.No abstraction or superstition should stand in the way of human life, health, privacy, dignity or personal expression. I'm just crazy enough to believe consensus and implementation are feasible. What have we got to lose? Just about everything (except an afterlife for believers).

    Public D,
    The reason for our present economic meltdown is the result of lost jobs and stagnant wages.
    The small businesses and working people of this nation have been methodically striped of their financial resources through scare tactics and hidden costs. The cost of living; taxes, utilitity bills, gas prices and interest rates are eating people alive.
    It reminds me of the painting of the one eyed monster eating the head of its victim.
    The middle class in America supports the poor, the rich, the politicians and the spoils go to the rich and powerful.
    Unions are the only leverage workers have left and they are fading fast.
    We are fast becoming a slave state.


    Open Letter to Auto Workers in the South:

    Dear brothers and sisters,

    The crisis in the auto industry is being used to pit us against each other – union vs. non-union, north against the south. We rank and file autoworkers would like to speak directly to you as fellow autoworkers. Some of us work at assembly plants, some in the parts industry, while others are retired.

    First, we want to say that we are not enemies. Like you, we are everyday, hard-working people who are trying to provide a decent life for our families and hoping for a better life for our children. As working people we have more in common with each other than we do with those that run corporate America.

    Some corporations and politicians have developed a great strategy: create a culture where workers are resentful of each other but admire CEOs who make 440 times the average wage. And don’t question the worth of our leaders in Congress, whose salaries start at $172,000 with an annual cost-of-living increase plus excellent health care and pension benefits. (They just gave themselves a raise.)

    The media glorifies wealthy people and encourages us to desire the “lifestyles of the rich and famous.” The contradiction is that this same corporate media paints a picture of autoworkers as lazy and greedy. Unfortunately, too many working people buy into the propaganda, which is designed to make one group of workers blame another. Working people did not create the financial mess we’re in. The real villains are the corporate CEOs and the big shots in banking that made the decisions that destroyed our economy. Yet they are still raking in tens of millions of dollars in bonuses for the little work they do. Talk about being lazy and greedy!

    Let’s clear up a popular lie used by those who seek to turn us against each other. We do not make $72 + an hour in wages and benefits. That is the total labor cost per active worker, when the cost of pensions and health care for retirees is added to their wages and benefits. The truth is that a long-time production worker makes $28 an hour and benefits. New hires only make about $14.50 an hour, with far fewer benefits. In reality, labor costs are only 8-10% of the vehicle cost.

    Some Senators, who are against the bridge loan to the automakers, say that the industry has to cut their “legacy costs.“ “Legacy costs” means the pensions and health care for the over 1.5 million retirees and surviving spouses at GM, Ford and Chrysler. It would be criminal to cut out the benefits contractually promised to people who have worked for these carmakers.

    Because the U.S. plants of Toyota and other foreign automakers are newer, there are few retirees. Legacy costs at companies like Toyota, Honda, Mercedes, Nissan and Hyundai will continue to grow as more of you get older and look to retire. We’re sure you would agree that if they promised you something, you would expect them to honor their promise after you held up your end of the bargain. The same holds true for us.

    One of the reasons we have pensions, decent wages and health care is because we belong to a union. In the 1950s and ‘60s we set the bar in wages and benefits to which other workers aspired. And as our wages and benefits increased, it helped to raise wages and benefits for others. Many workers are envious of our wages and benefits, which we receive because we are organized for our mutual support. Because you are some of the highest paid workers in your communities, you have probably experienced some of that same, misplaced resentment.

    Over the last several contracts union autoworkers have taken enormous concessions in the name of competition. Those concessions haven’t brought us job security, but have only fueled the demand for more concessions. As the wages and benefits of workers at the Detroit automakers decrease, there will be pressure on you to take cuts. This is what we call the race to the bottom -- it’s a race in which we are all losers. Already, Toyota, which lost $1.7 billion in 2008, is planning wage cuts according to reports in the media and is cutting back production at many of its U.S. facilities. Workers in Smyrna, Tennessee are taking days off without pay to keep Nissan going. As the economy continues to unravel, there’ll be even more pressure to cut labor costs.

    Even though we have problems with some of the decisions and direction of our union leadership, we still believe that democratic unions are the best way workers can protect themselves. We would welcome you in our union—when we stand together we amplify our voices. Statistics continue to show that, overall, unionized workers make 25% more in wages and benefits than non-unionized workers. That’s the power of unity.

    Given the economic crisis, what can we do?

    We believe we can work together with you to demand that health care and pensions not be based on jobs, but guaranteed to all workers as they are in other industrialized societies. We need a universal, single-payer health care system and the HR676 health care bill can help us get there. We can tell Congress and the Obama administration that the auto industry—including the workers at Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai, Subaru, BMW, Kia, Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz,--is at the center of the American economy, employing more than three million jobs and indirectly effecting millions more. The industry needs to be revitalized with a plan that can produce not only fuel efficient cars but can manufacture light rail and high-speed trains, buses and the wind, water and solar technology needed to meet the needs of the 21st century.

    Frankly we don’t think the same old management will be capable of putting together or implementing such a creative proposal; but we feel confident that workers, production and skilled trades, along with a bevy of engineers, consumers and environmental experts have a lot of valuable experience and knowledge and need to find our voices so we can build a future.

    We want to put an end to anti-labor laws, to make sure that as autoworkers, we don’t lose our democratic rights when we punch in. We demand the repeal of unfair trade laws like NAFTA.

    We want a world in which workers are valued because we produce, transport or service products that are needed. We don’t want to be in competition with other workers—we all have the right to a decent job and a life where the next generation has an opportunity.

    We ask those of you who are interested in having a dialogue with us to write us at

    Your Union Sisters And Brothers

    These shows are so disappointing. Mr. Gerard sees little more than: one side is good, the other bad. The disappointing part is that Bill Moyers who sounds so reasonable and rational, invites someone so one-sided, then does little to challenge him. I think Moyers would say his job includes giving people accurate information. Well, do your job - even if you agree with your guest. Or at least be honest and tell people you're not that interested in the other side.

    It's all so mediocre. A few examples.

    A secret ballot is a powerful democratic tool. A defense that consists largely of saying management is bad and you can trust the union not to lean on people to join is so weak, that Moyers ought to say something.

    Using the bargaining power of unions to increase wages may just do so ... at least until we become less competitive and the jobs more overseas. Course, then we could implement protectionist measures, which would probably work til others retaliate .....

    These issues are wheels within wheels - I was hoping Moyers would have that depth, but he's not much better than Shawn Hannity.

    These shows are so disappointing. Mr. Gerard sees little more than: one side is good, the other bad. The disappointing part is that Bill Moyers who sounds so reasonable and rational, invites someone so one-sided, then does little to challenge him. I think Moyers would say his job includes giving people accurate information. Well, do your job - even if you agree with your guest. Or at least be honest and tell people you're not that interested in the other side.

    It's all so mediocre. A few examples.

    A secret ballot is a powerful democratic tool. A defense that consists largely of saying management is bad and you can trust the union not to lean on people to join is so weak, that Moyers ought to say something.

    Using the bargaining power of unions to increase wages may just do so ... at least until we become less competitive and the jobs more overseas. Course, then we could implement protectionist measures, which would probably work til others retaliate .....

    These issues are wheels within wheels - I was hoping Moyers would have that depth, but he's not much better than Shawn Hannity.

    I have since a child never followed the norm. I am an american. Not a black or african american. I am not a color, I am a human being. I have always lived my life this way, and refuse to let anyone call me anything except my given name. My mother raised us with respect and taught us how to respect. That is were we begin to rebuild our dreams, and our country and to share it with the world. We need to pay attention and interrupt when something is not right, and we need to unite in doing so. Rebuild our moral fabric, and start with our children. See I have worked all my life just to get to this point and to share it with the world. The injustices of the past is not where I live. What I invisioned for the future is where I have always lived. Some are not ready to receive this information no matter how positive; but because I am not a celebrity, or on TV, or well known, so my music is not popular enough for some to even give it attention. But for once, people need to step outside the norm and try something else that can add value to their lives.

    Positive minds, are proactive, and productive. We must do this everyday,with faith, love, and care in our hearts whether at home, work or play; and no matter whether we feel like it or not. Our parents did, and their parents before them. They had it a lot tougher than we do now. Start now, to improve our future.

    Lots of Love,


    You are an industrialist boot licker...
    The only way we can save the economy to support the needs of the demand side of economics so that they can support the supply side of economics.
    Working people need sufficient wages to support their life style.
    Industrialists need sufficient revenue to produce and develop their products. This is a direct cause and effect relationship.
    Clueless people like you who are destroying our economy under the guise of "conservatism" when in truth you are one of the sociopathic and greedy capitalists who are destroying our economy. You need to try and support your family on unemployment insurance or minimum wage long enough to understand the problem.
    In my book conservative means self-centered sociopath; people who worship money.

    Sorry I missed the program on unions and the Employee Free Choice Act. I've lived all my adult life in Texas, a non-union state. And if you haven't figured out why certain politicians want the freedom to keep illegal Mexican laborers, you haven't been paying attention.

    What I say is, "Workers of the United States, unite." That is the only way we can gain control of the economy and get decent wages.

    My appologies to folks who have been commenting on union free vote. My post on the interview with the Brit on how Ammerica should now be engaging in introspection concerning what we are about somehow got into the wrong slot.

    I do have some strong oppinions on employers vs unions, but I'm not ready to post them just now.

    It's worth knowing a little something about the type of people who are leading the charge against the Employee Free Choice Act. This knowledge should go a long way to help working people figure out what side of this battle they should be on. Here's part of a profile of Richard Berman. The word "unsavory" doesn't do him justice.



    CREW launches shining light on notorious union buster Richard Berman

    January 16, 10:15 AM by Ron Moore, DC Special Interests Examiner

    Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has launched, a site dedicated to exposing lobbyist Richard Berman’s activities, his myriad front groups and projects, his employees’ work, and his firm’s tactics.

    For years, Berman has been a front man for business and industry in campaigns against consumer safety and health promotion groups. Through his public relations firm, Berman and Company, Berman has fought unions, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and other watchdog groups in their efforts to raise awareness about childhood obesity, the minimum wage, the dangers of smoking, mad cow disease, drunk driving, and other issues. Berman runs at least 15 industry-funded front groups and projects, such as the Center for Union Facts (CUF).

    Berman and those in his employ have long been shills for a range of industries, including those related to tobacco, alcohol, chain restaurants, and tanning. Within these various groups and his public relations firm, Berman holds 16 different positions and his employees have at least 33 job titles among them. CREW’s site lists as many of those positions as are publicly available.

    Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW explains the imperative to expose this scoundrel, “Richard Berman has become wealthy by deceiving the public through scare tactics, sleazy ads, and bogus websites. lists in one place Berman’s pay-for play activities, and demonstrates that his real expertise is making money.

    Before one more story is published citing Berman as a credible expert, we encourage journalists and consumers to take a look at to better understand Richard Berman’s number one goal: to be the best snake-oil salesman ever.”

    Opponents to the right to organize are facing the mobilization of millions of American workers who intend to drown out the media megaphone purchased by corporate front groups. The fight to pass the Employee Free Choice Act is the current battleground as Congress takes up this important and vital stimulus bill.

    There is a sense that immigrants are a force of invasion, for they are what Marx called capitalism's reserve arm of the unemployeed. They are (with all unintentionality on their part) part of that hapless underclass that keeps the supply of labor high for capitalists, and the work and wage of those who are legal, stagnant to low.I think this is more economic than zenophobic. Unfortunately such an analysis seems rarely discussed.

    As I near my 80th birthday, I realize that I have a lot of history to look back on, but I wonder what I can do about the future. Your discussion with the Brit Simon Schama was thought provoking. I admit to agreeing with correspondents who think the Brits have been given a pass merely on the basis of their accent and attitude of superior knowledge. I disagree with a lot of what Prof Schama said, but I really liked his visit to the vacant house on the prairie. It does tend to get right to the heart of what we U.S. citizens think of ourselves. But we are so much more than that. I am of both German and British descent and am a native born Texan, so you may find it hard to pinpoint my prejudices. My father's parents were German immigrants who came to America in 1901 to join other relatives. My mother's family on both sides were here before we were the United States of America. I have seen and heard the folks who were not born in the U.S.A. and did not come legally. I understand their need, as in sending what little money they earn back to Mexico to support their family, but I do believe that people who demand all kinds of handouts from me and my fellow citizens should follow the same rules my father's folks did. This is an issue we have been facing for some time and have not yet resolved.

    As for the financial fiascos that have gotten us into a mess that rivals the times when I grew up, we have been brought up short and even out outgoing president has been doing a philosophical about face.

    Mr. Obama? This is really great. He is, in fact, an African American by descent on his father's side. No one can deny that the Africans who were brought here and sold into slavery were mistreated from the time they were shanghaied to the day they died without control over their lives. Even my Cousin George W's slaves weren't freed until his death. I well remember the separate schools, separate seating areas in movie houses, separate water fountains, etc. I was in college when my fellow citizens were finally being recognized as equal in fact and I thought it was about time.

    I guess what I am saying boils down to this, Brother Moyers. We don't need some Brit prissing around and telling us when it is or isn't time for us to delve into introspection. We already done it. We are an evolving nation. Shoot, we almost nominated a woman to represent one of our political parties as candidate for president of the United States of America. Or hadn't you and the Brit noticed that?


    Thank you for your comments and constructive comments. They are much needed today.

    I will not respond to any "anti-union" rhetoric. That is a fool's trap for any clear thinkning person.

    Irene et al.,

    Offshoring to other countries is not only a cost cutting measure, it is a union busting tactic on a Global scale. No union worker can compete with communist enforced working conditions. Does anyone reading this believe that the Chinese or Indians can even afford the standard of living that Americans, union or not, became accustomed to while earning a fair and equitable wage? If NAFTA was a good trade pact, then why is Mexico in the shape that it is in today?

    You see, once factories are shuttered here and bargaining agreements become dust, the union movement diminishes into oblivion. Millions of working Americans are no longer part of the "economy". Their "currency" has disappeared.

    In this type of economic climate people will work for almost any kind of wage. The fear that grips us when we can't find work overrides our desire to collectively bargain for fair wages and working conditions. So not only are we on a race to the bottom when it comes to wages in relationship to developing countries, we are also on a race to the bottom with ourselves against the backdrop of fear and anxiety.

    Unions are not the end all be all of organized labor. But they once set the standard for what was fair and equitable in the workplace. Now multi-hundred millionare CEOs sit on top of companies that do little more than manage cheap labor markets and distribution channels for substandard goods that barely last long enough to pay them off. Clothing, shoes, toys, and electronics are just examples of goods that constantly need to be replaced at ever increasing intervals.

    This constant flow of money to the top has weakened our ability to invest in more important parts of our lives, including education and real savings. We work longer hours for less money for cheaper goods. We spend less time with each other discussing important issues that face our nation and fellow Americans.

    As a side note, I would like to leave you with this thought concerning our economic crisis.

    The government is borrowing money to loan to the banks. This money is supposed to be used to free up "capital" and credit markets so that money can start "flowing" again.

    So the government borrows money that we will have to pay interest on. Then the bank gets a guaranteed loan with this very same "money". Then the bank loans it back to US at a higher interest rate so they can turn a profit.

    In other words, we will pay the interest on the money that we are loaning the banks that we are paying interest on.

    Has anyone in the Media told us that? Does anyone who has lost their job, or anyone working too many hours now realize how this scheme is playing out?

    You tell me.


    I ought to be able to join a union anywhere I work. This is not about a secret ballot. It is about letting employers such as Wal-Mart and fast food companies to abuse workers. If I am the only one among thousands of worker to belong to a union, that is my right, not the domain of the rip off artist who run American business. If 51 percent of us belong to the same union, gosh, we ought to be able to negotiate with the boss man.

    Jonathan: Thanks for the information about strategic closures by foreign capital. Unions look the way they do now because they were early on domesticated by the federal government at the behest of large employers. The really effective movements were termed "communist" and excluded. We do need new militant unions.

    Another thing we need is the mandate to seize idled and shuttered manufacturing property in order to put our populace back to work. Yes, protectionism may be needed to get things started up. Don't fret, it's a do or die situation involving national security. New forms of ownership by workers and worker management also need development. It is not so strange an idea. Do you know what mutual insurance originally meant? It meant the company was owned by the premium paying customers. Our memories of anything non-privatized and non-elite have gradually been erased by success ethic propaganda. We need to recover memory. The tool is called people's history.

    Antonio: Kid gloves come from goat hide. They are soft but tough. I often wear them when pruning my roses or berry canes. Kid's gloves would be tiny I suspect.
    There is a steady demand for kid gloves (see any garden catalog).
    Among the majority of working Americans there is little or no demand for your anti-union attitude. The majority of us want to organize. Sure, you wasted 25 minutes, but I saw an old Canadian steelworker who has given the situation some thought. You could have done worse, and recharged your battery of ignorance and obstinance at a union busting site. Card check speeds workplace democracy before people like you can apply intimidation and violence. May those like you become more dis-organized every day.
    Your intellectual product is like kid's gloves, small and useless. Unionism is like kid gloves that protect the laboring hand and prevent the thorns of employer greed.

    What a waste of 25 minutes. Can Moyer handle these idiots with any smaller kid's gloves? The union boss is a complete idiot. Every time he gave a BS response which didn't answer Bill's question Bill just sort of agreed and moved on. Only an idiot would believe that free trade is bad or that protectionism is good. Only an idiot would believe that a secret ballot is bad. We are screwed in this nation because people like Moyer are self-serving socialists and millions of lemmings suck on their every word.

    If history repeats itself then the influence of organized labor will play a critical part in pulling this economy out of this downward spiral. During the great depression unions were formed and essentially created a middle class. The union of yesterday is not the same union it is today. Many would argue that unions like the UAW have gotten to strong and created wages and benefits that have made our manufacturing un-competitive in the world economy.
    The non desirable labor cost has influenced American born industries to ship manufacturing to cheaper labor sources since the 70’s. American manufacturing capabilities are being destroyed by corporate greed and its never ending quest to find the cheapest labor. How many manufacturing jobs is our government going to let leave this country. No we are letting foreign companies buy up any remaining American manufacturing and letting them idle or shut them down. ArcelorMittal aggressively bought American steel plants less then 3 years ago and are now aggressively shutting some of these plants down. ArcelorMittal is not selling these plants. They are shutting them down! They know if the market for steel recovers then they would have the opportunity to import steel from less expensive non-union labor from Canada or Brazil.

    Universal health care could make Corporate American and Unions stronger but the bleeding of Americas manufacturing base has to stop. The US Government needs to regulate Corporate American and foreign owned manufacturing and plant the seeds of a prosperous middle class that will drive this economy of this downward spiral.

    When I make the irrefutable assertion that unions are family friendly, I also want to warn pro-union partisans of one discriminatory conceptual error. The model of the one income nuclear family with only the father working is a figment of media and has rarely been prevalent in the United States. During domestic economy times the entire family worked very hard toward the same subsistence ends if they did not have servants or slaves. For instance, President John Adams and his wife Abigail were renowned for heavy work on their small New England farm, albeit he was a diplomat and lawyer as well, but he certainly expected his children to work. By the presidency of his son, John Quincy Adams, textiles were becoming a mass employer. Women and children were preferred over men as workers (hands) in that and many other Industrial Revolution enterprises. At that same in England time 8 year old Charles Dickens was packing and labeling cans of shoe polish 12 to 16 hours a day, 6 days a week. After he became a lawyer and famous author he continued to have nightmares about his hands and nails being irrevocably soiled by the boot blacking.

    Naturally, the first union struggles involved women and children. But because men's work was seen as more worthy we have been fooled into thinking that the daddy worked while mama and the babies stayed home. truth is, in most cases, it was the aunties and the grannies who did child care while mama worked. Daddy might be stuck with the kids if that's what shift work dictated.

    Child labor was abandoned as work became more divided into specialty tasks and more regularized and disciplined. It was technology as much as social pressure sent the kids home or to grade school. Many times though, during the recessions and the Great Depression, it was only the women who were eligible for the lower paid work. In that lower paid category was included professional careers such as grade school teaching. Daddy got more sympathy in the breadline when he brought his kids.

    Where I grew up textiles ruled until about 1990. The two worker family was no new thing here. I believe that has been true in many non-union industries involving manual dexterity all over the world. Circuit boards are a good example. Naturally, as boys and girls are segregated in preparatory education they will be so sorted in the workplace. Girls are quietly excluded from automotive shop here at East Gaston. And what if she wanted to design robots at MIT?

    Media is partially responsible for our perceptual mistake. The ideal family models of the 50s and 60s only served to shame us poor working stiffs who had no professional daddy breadwinner, but that was never the majority.

    If anything is a contemporary bourgeoisie mindset it is the myth of the prevalent one paycheck household. It was true for highly paid male professionals and specialists, and for the unionized labor aristocracy. It's possibility flickered for a little while in the post WWII decades, but the fire never caught.

    Women and children always work, they are just often not paid, or not paid fairly. Our society measures the paycheck dollars, and not the effort expended. Ask who benefits from the misconception?

    David Eddy: Your reply to Tye may be one of the best stated and truest pieces ever posted on BMJ blogs.

    The only issue you didn't completely address was off-shoring. I expect either you or Vince Wilyard are better able to examine this than I. I've never been fortunate enough to get a union job.

    One observation I'd offer is that union wages pull up pay for a wide web of related employees who may not be organized. Employers in partially unionized industries often had to match union benefits and pay to keep good help and freeze out unions. Some resorted to "company unions" or associations. People tell me the union is partially responsible to discipline malingering or incompetent members. Sometimes the worker is found at fault in grievance arbitration. Has anyone ever witnessed or been part of such a situation? I'd be interested to hear about union discipline.

    This was a great interview. Bill, you asked what can be manufactured in the US that people what to buy? Start with underwear, towels, sheets, and blankets. Globalization completed the gutting of the American textile and apparel industry. It's just not credible that a you can't make as much profit on undewear manufactred in Tennesse or Oklahoma as you can on product manufactured in China then shipped back to USA.

    I worked for a chemical company in the '70's and if you wanted to be promoted all you had to do was pretend you wanted to start a union. In the balance of power, it is always the employee who needs protecting. From both the unions and the employer, but especially from the employer.
    Later in life when I went back to school and graduated as accouting student of the year at age 48, I learned what ageism is all about. The rule of thumb in any larger corporation: If you go in for an interview and you are older than the HR interviewer, do not expect a call for a second interview. That was my experience. I am now an RN.
    A medical limerick:
    There once was a patient named Phil,
    A tough one the doc couldn't kill.
    He left the hospital
    As fit as a fiddle,
    But croaked when he opened his bill.

    The secret ballot is a fundamental of Democracy. No matter how you spin it, to change that right in any election is an act of tyranny.

    Plain and simple.

    I take it you have never played monopoly...
    The game ends when one person has all of the money and all of the property and everyone else is destitute.
    Work is a social occupation that is dependent on the availability of work and fair wages to support the demand side of economics. The demand side of economics supports the supply side of economics.
    Without working people that can support their cost of living; the economy collapses and so does the society.

    "THAT" is the problem we face right "NOW".

    During "World War Two; women entered the work force and were happy to get half as much pay because their husband also worked. The economy quickly shifted so that it took two people working to support people's cost of living. In the meantime, large corporations were becoming very wealthy and influential. They basically bought off politicians to get handouts from the government. Now they are investing outside the country and draining our economy.
    The unions are the only hope for working people to get fair wages. Prices need to be adjusted to pay for reasonable wages.
    Economics has to be projected into the future because that is where it is spent to provide the good and services that are needed.
    I was a union worker as a tool and die maker. I wanted to do engineering so I went to school to get the necessary training.
    When I worked as an engineer I was no longer a union worker and made much less money than I would have as a Tool Maker.
    Your post shows no understanding of the wage game. Your generation will be a losers if They do not get the rules straight.

    For those of you who think that you can live without a Union should really think about the following points.

    You live in the best Union ever founded, though still flawed nevertheless.

    Why have we accumulated so much debt as a people? Real wages along with the labor movement have been headed in one direction, Down.

    No matter how little automakers pay their workers, cars will never get cheaper. That has never happened, and it never will, Union or not.

    Unions have their flaws; but what organization doesn't?

    We have a saying in the Union. The Union is only as good as its members.

    "You can't have Cadillac quality at Walmart prices."

    This mentality has what has been destroying our economy. Cheap goods, easy credit, low wages, fake equity, etc.

    An organized people would never be prey to such illusions, except when they are propandized to death by marketing.

    What good is freedom and democracy when you can't sufficiently provide for yourself, let alone a family?

    Here's what I find interesting ... almost all of these posts discuss how we need the unions here to keep the good-paying jobs in America. Here's the facts - no union can keep a company's doors open in the US. Ask the NewPage plant in WI how well the union did in keeping their jobs.

    And the post from a non-union manager - one response was that if he didn't like the union workers making more than him, go work for a union. That's exactly the problem. Companies don't purposely want to under-pay in most cases. Obviously, they're there to make a profit, so they want to pay as little as they need to, but there has to be a happy median somewhere. To think that any company can afford to work with most unions now-a-days is just not realistic. Unions absolutely get people more money out of their contracts. But it's those same contracts that the companies can't afford that will guarantee jobs moving overseas. If more unions would just negotiate reasonably, it'd be a different story. However, they push for the "American dream" - make more $ and work less. No one will win.

    My biggest fear about the EFCA is looking at Michigan. A state forged in large part by union workforces ... all going right down the tubes. Why? Because the companies can't make enough to keep the doors open. We want to pay less in the market to purchase goods, but we want to make more money to be able to purchase more. You can't have your cake and eat it, too.

    And while the union presidents point to the corporate greed of the CEO's and their incomes ... how much do those same union presidents take home?

    In the end, the unions are pushing for the EFCA simply b/c it will allow them to ambush companies more easily. To some companies "brow-beat" their employees at the first sign of a union campaign? Yes. In many cases, it's simply trying to get the employees to ask the unions for the honest answers. The NLRB governs what employers can/can't tell employees. However, unions don't have to play by those same rules. They can make any/all promises they want in order to entice someone to join. Most companies simply want their employees to make an educated decision. The time between a card signing and the actual vote is the time to do just that. Find out what the issues are and lead discussions to get to what the real answers are.

    I'm the first to admit that unions did a lot of great things for us in the past. Those days are long gone. As a 28-year-old worker, I don't want anyone acting as my voice besides me. Union membership has declined because more of my generation is coming into the workplace and being our own voice. It has nothing to do with not being allowed to unionize. It has everything to do with not wanting to. If the studies the unions quote are legit that 60% of workers poled want to be part of a union, then why aren't they? If 60% of the workforce wants the union as their voice, they've got the majority needed even under today's "employer-biased" rules.

    The unions are simply looking for the government to help their recruiting b/c they're running out of money and watching people come to the realizations that this isn't the same working landscape that was in place 50 years ago. Employees have had the choice all along, and more often than not, we've chosen NO.

    The unions are fighting for the open card because somany people can get talked into signing something by their friends and co-workers, and union leadership counts on this pressure. At the same time, they say a secret ballot will allow the company bosses to put pressure on workers with threats of lost jobs.

    What the open card really does is allow the unions to present the company with a done deal; your employees signed so now we are unionized. The company gets no chance to argue the point to their employees.

    No, keep the ballots secret and let fair elections decide the outcome.

    I just wish to add that I am totally a fan of Bill Moyers. He's a national treasure, whose service to the public is inestimable. The Journal is by far the best news commentary on the air. In this suffocating age of corporately controlled media, he is oxygen for "we the people". Thank you, Mr. Moyers, and those of you at PBS who continue to have the courage to "speak truth to power."

    Why won't Bill Moyers present the other side of the "secret ballot" issue? I was exposed to Leo Gerard' tactics years ago when standing in line for final approval for a steel plant laborer position.At the final desk sat the union rep.Those who signed the card got jobs,those who didn't saw their applications torn I signed quickly.So much for the signed card being fair.The secret ballot is the only way.

    You're correct, Van Tenpenny. Obama don't know the meaning of,"Yes, We Can!"
    If workers could seize the infrastructure of production we'd be making alternative energy devices and electric buses in quick order using worker owned and managed strategies. CEOs don't make nothing but bad deals and too high a salary. One person is about as good as another when working, if motivated. I know a new job with shared input in doing good things would motivate me. I'd even work for food awhile until sales pick up. Who else understands what I'm trying to say? Let's get some co-ops and worker and community run operations started right away. Screw the Madoff class if they refuse to cooerate. Money is a fiction of the social contract. Food, fuel and shelter are real, get it? I mean no threat to the small retailers or tradespersons. They are the best part of capitalism, and it works great at that level.

    American workers can rebuild our country from the ruins created by W's minions, provided the chance. Far too many corporations rolled over working families the past eight years. CEO pay jumped 535% eclipsing the 116% rise in corporate profits verses 32% increase in average worker pay. December 2008 layoff reports stating 524,000 people out of work. This does not reflect the under-employed nor the ones who simply gave up the search. White collar and blue collar workers are in the same unemployment situation. The U.S can turn around. The sweat of the American Worker will be the driving force.

    The EFCA is long overdue for American workers. For almost sixty years union membership has been declining, not because union members wanted out - but because of obstacles and detours (legislation)concocted by our government. The anti-union political supporters, contributors and greedy CEO's have waged war on unions for decades. Union membership has declined because of greed, corruption, and outsourcing from the corporate elite and that starts in Washington, DC. If less government, less regulation, is good for us, (Reagan; BushI; and BushII,)what the hell happened? Look at us now. Nobody's minding the store, we are giving it away. Cheap labor, here and abroad, has proven to be a suicidal panacea for our economy. Case in point; there are many technicaly skilled jobs here in the U.S. that are being filled through the abuse of the H(1b) through the
    -H(1k) visa,(watch my hands)programs. These programs allow college educated foreigners to come here and work, but paid much less than Americans with the same qualifications. The guest worker visa programs, 28 of them, have been heralded by the Bush Administration and been used to exploit these workers, paying them much less than the benchmark wage for that position, why? Can you say, "corporate greed" with a little help from their political friends?
    There is no shortage of qualified workers here, there is a shortage of jobs and competency from our government.
    I support the EFCA and anyones effort to join a union. Leo Gerard was on point in his interview and I applaud him for telling it straight. Workers need a voice on the job, and you get that voice by having union representation at the bargaining table and securing an acceptable contract with your employer! This is how the middle class evolved in the first place. America, its economy and the middle class will return vibrantly when the EFCA is signed into law. Buy American and vote Union!

    I was impressed with Mr. Moyers' interviewing skills! Especially that straight question about what Leo Gerard would do on day 1 of the Obama administration.

    It's interesting how unions have devolved from supporters of workers' rights ( e.g. better working conditions, fairer pay, more stable jobs, etc. ) into fighting for rules that would make recruiting easier. This is their focus nowadays and the one thing that would keep Mr. Gerard comfortably in his job.

    The demise of unions coincides with the demise of the middle class. Job Security, health benefits, overtime pay, a decent salary,and yes, a pension, are not too much to expect from multi-billion, multi-national companies. You can't raise a family without these things. People who are against unions perhaps are young, do not remember the struggles of the coal miners, and others. They have benefited from the five day work week, the end of child labor,the minimum wage, the paid sick days and vacations, and,in some cases pensions, without having to fight for these things. Unions are a check against the egregious greed of multi-billion, multi-national companies that have squeezed the life blood out of our country. Check out Walmart, the largest employer in America. Research their systemic oppressive tactics towards their workers. Some people have no choice but to work there. There are no other jobs. Watch "The Grapes of Wrath," for God's sake. Power does not concede.

    Regarding the interview with Mr. Gerard: good to have, but (like TJ) I found his argument apparently opposing the secret ballot for unionizing jobs unconvincing. Exactly how is a secret ballot going to make any employee more susceptible to company propoganda than an election with signed cards? There is so much heat on this issue, I can only think there is either something else in these bills that isn't being stated, or I'm missing something obvious. What am I missing? Anyone?

    In order for a capitalistic system to function in a humanitarian society....

    It is necessary that the workers have sufficient compensation to support the quality of people's lives, the quality of the society and the quality of the environment.

    The only way that will happen is if the justice system includes an equity system that protects the interests of the workers.
    Otherwise this country will become a slave state.

    It is necessary that workers have sufficient funds to pay for the expenses of products and services.

    The price of products and services must include viable wages for empoyees or there must be sufficient government supplements to wages.

    There must be sufficient capital in the economic system to provide for the government services, quality lifestyles and private investment.

    Economics will not work as a random accident. It must be managed to maximize the quality of people's lives, the quality of the society and the quality of the environment.

    Reality is not a random event.

    "Prosperity is only an instrument to be used, not a deity to be worshipped."
    Calvin Coolidge

    In a perfect world, the present law for organizing unions would work fine. In actuality, the interim period between the signing of "A" cards and the union election is when companies try to frighten, bribe and intimidate workers from voting the union in.

    American companies are scared to death of unions because a union contract is a legal document, enforceable to the highest courts of the land. "At-will", or non-union workers have only one right, and that is the right to quit.

    We can expect to see millions of corporate dollars poured into a campaign against the EFCA soon. Wal-Mart already has a 24-hour hotline for managers to report possible union activity, and has closed stores that have attempted unionization.

    There is tremendous potential for unionization in the service industries. It may be easy to move a factory to China, but the retail store that sells the stuff from that factory will have to remain in the USA. Public service sector employees are nearly all organized today and the once-lowly courthouse janitor now makes a decent wage, with benefits. Those in private employment should also.

    A few years ago, I had to spend four years at a non-union job, and they were the worst four years of my life. Let's hope the EFCA becomes law and working people can start regaining their dignity again!

    If unions are to succeed as a whole, they need to stop disenfranchising women in non-traditional professional positions, if they want better support from workers.

    I'm surprised that you said "what do you think" given the server hiccups of yesterday. Your server was rejecting what people thought, yesterday.

    And what's wrong with posting what one thinks on PBS Discussions board? Is that now EXCLUSIVELY for fiction books, NOVA and POV? With so many sections locked and Engage in service, why does PBS even waste money keeping the infernal thing online at all?

    Fix it or ditch it. THAT'S what I think--thank you for aksing.

    brillian commentary, bill. But what is your suggestions for the Israeli gov't to stop the rockets? Where has your commentary been on HAMAS' declared goals of removing Israel over the years or presently.

    They duped elderly senile George McGovern into thinking labor free-choice takes away the secret ballot. For a guy who opposed Vietnam he is mighty fixated upon voting as a fetish.Unionism has never been about voting, but about struggle and organizing. The free-choice bill does not negate the possibility of a secret ballot if the workers ask for it. It simply speeds up the process by letting the interest cards substitute as a referendum before the company can implement terrorism upon the organizing workers.

    We also need to get beyond the taboo against white collar people like me being in unions. I wish my office could be unionized tomorrow. The way they divide us by race, sex, age and ideology needs to be stopped. I don't know of any non-unionized American employment earning under $100K that is not under exploitation and stretch-out. And I don't mean any of that Andy Stern SEIU kiss-ass colluding pseudo-unionism either. I see what they tried in Puerto Rico and California. Let's get some new clean unions, made by the workers, and discard the trash.

    Also, we need some law enforcement regarding contractors and temps. I'm beginning to meet an army of these poor souls behind on their federal taxes and ineligible for unemployment benefits. Here is another crime larger than the exploitation of undocumented immigrants. When you say "No Amnesty" you may be nailing the lid on your own coffin, because a gray market worker is as powerless and pitiful as an alien. Decline and refuse pretend jobs: You're hurting everybody. Anything less than living wage with benefits is debt peonage. Anti-union people just want to see others starved and bamboozled. It helps them enjoy licking their masters' ..... (fill in the blank) It's sadism!

    I am for American Jobs. Mr. Gerard is for American Union jobs, when it is in HIS best intrest. I wanted Moyers to ask him where his suit, socks, shirt, tie, etc were manufactured, probably China.

    Melissa Allison Seattle Times business reporter

    Starbucks has reached a settlement in principle over a Michigan barista whom the National Labor Relations Board said was fired in June because of his union activities.

    An administrative trial that was scheduled for today has been canceled, and the agreement is expected to be signed this week, said Chet Byerly, resident officer for the NLRB in Grand Rapids. He would not disclose details of the proposed agreement.

    A Starbucks spokeswoman confirmed that it is working on a settlement.

    It is the third time in a month that Starbucks has faced action from the NLRB regarding the Industrial Workers of the World union.

    Last month, an NLRB administrative law judge found that Starbucks took part in unfair labor practices at several of its New York cafes.

    Last week, the Seattle chain settled a separate NLRB dispute in Michigan.

    All three cases were initiated by baristas affiliated with the IWW, a century-old union that has worked for several years to improve conditions for Starbucks workers.

    In New York last month, an NLRB judge ordered Starbucks to give back jobs to three former workers and compensate them for lost earnings. The company also must post notices informing employees of their labor-organizing rights.

    Starbucks plans to appeal the ruling, according to spokeswoman Tara Darrow.

    Such appeals often take a year and might last longer now that the NLRB's board has lost three of its five members, said University of Tennessee law professor Jeff Hirsch, a former attorney at the NLRB.

    Last week's settlement stemmed from a complaint that barista and IWW member Cole Dorsey made to the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration about a leaky air conditioner.

    In interviewing at least one Starbucks worker about the matter, attorneys at a local law firm representing Starbucks neglected to issue legally required warnings that help prevent coercive questioning.

    "We contend that these warnings are not necessary when dealing with an occupational safety charge. The NLRB disagreed," Darrow said in an e-mail. "We elected to settle the matter to avoid litigation."

    Starbucks did not admit wrongdoing but must post a notice in the affected store in Grand Rapids "saying they won't do it again," said NLRB Regional Director Stephen Glasser.

    Dorsey, the barista who complained about the air conditioner, was fired in June after working for Starbucks almost two years. The NLRB charges that he was dismissed because of his union activities.

    He was fired eight months after Starbucks and the IWW settled an agreement over unionizing efforts by employees at his Grand Rapids store. At that time, Starbucks agreed to post notices in that store advising employees of their unionizing rights.

    Such settlements never come with fines and rarely with admissions of wrongdoing. The Employee Free Choice Act, which stalled in the last session of Congress, would allow the NLRB to order fines in some situations, according to former NLRB attorney Hirsch. The bill faces strong opposition from the business community.

    In October, Starbucks settled a similar complaint in Minneapolis regarding another employee who claimed he was fired for encouraging co-workers to join the IWW.

    By Poster: This is one more reason why we need the Employee Free Choice Act Now!


    I believe in the employees right to choose to belong.However don't come from a union background you may not understand all the benefits of belonging to a union. I know employers don't realize all the benefits they accrue when ytheir employees are unionized. For instance when you have unionized employees the job gets done tghe right way becasue they are not afraid to dispute poor decisions. The people doing the job are some of the most qualified people to help make the decisions reguarding material on the job. Anon combative work force sounds ideal but it can lead to a host of bad decisions. The deunionizing of North American workers over the past 30 years has lead to financial crisis we are in the midst of. If anybody had bothered to look they would have seen that People in Canada and United States have been using credit cards to a greater and greater extent just to survive. They are being charged usury rates for credit cards. To Quote Thomas Jefferson "I believe banking institutions are more dagerous to our liberties than standing armies" The people in United States but also Canada are standing at a major crossroads in our history. We can either choose moderate changes to our problems or violent revolution. I don't believe it is very far into the future either.

    The enlightening interview with Leo Gerard provided an opportunity to inform those whose eyes may typically glaze over when the debate between card checks and secret ballots are presented.
    If you look at who is behind the well-financed and well-organized campaign of misinformation “SAVE OUR SECRET BALLOT’, opposing the Employee Free Choice Act, one would recognize that the manipulated information is coming from organizations that obviously do not have American family’s best interests in mind. The Chamber of Commerce is providing much of the energy behind the SOS campaign to defeat the EFCA. This SOS agenda follows on the heels of the UNION FACTS think tank that was also funded by trade groups that were taking a pro-active approach of smearing organized labor, has an almost laughable approach. Referring to progressive union officials like Leo Gerard as “Union Bosses” and distorting their agenda as being unsavory and corrupt, is a little like watching a 1940’s mobster movie. We don’t need Elliot Ness wannabes distorting facts. The American public would be much better served if they understood that the correlation between the unions’ diminished influence in this country and the multitude of problems we as citizens face are more than coincidence.

    Of course, using fear instead of facts worked for the Bush Administration with invading a sovereign country, so why not hire an unethical lobbyist like Richard Berman (see MADD and the cigarette manufacturers for his dishonest propaganda techniques) for the Hotel and Restaurant businesses. By warning the public that freedoms for a secret ballot will be lost if Congress passes the EFCA, and to place outdated references of corruption within labor organizations, which have better track records than even organized religion when it comes to financial integrity, their intent becomes obvious.

    Let’s not forget, this is the same Chamber of Commerce that warned China in 2006 that if they did not resist the movement towards allowing workers to organize within the transplanted U.S. manufacturing facilities in their country, the Chamber would do their very best to find a cheaper, anti-union location like Vietnam to relocate these factories.

    As far as intimidation of employees by the union-this argument has been turned on its head. The fact is for the last 8 years the NLRB has delayed a ruling to recognize a vote and to implement a contract for excessive months. In the meantime the employers have intimidated and harassed their workers into submission from any interest in joining a union.

    I must agree with President Gerard that we need the Employee Free Choice Act.

    A recent Hart survey (one of the country’s most respected polling firms) showed nearly four in five adults (78 percent) favor legislation that “makes it easier for workers to bargain with their employers for better wages, benefits and working conditions." This is a drastic difference than the number of people that presently belong to a union. One of the possible reasons could be the undocumented cases where workers have been pressured, harassed, tricked and intimidated by employers so they don't vote for a union.

    And in regards to the global market … the playing field is not level.

    Companies move to underdeveloped countries for many reasons. Cheap labor with little or no regulations; child labor; very few safety or environmental standards; and no health care or pension costs.

    If the public or consumers expect to maintain regulations and laws in this country to protect these standards, they should realize it comes with a cost.

    If we do not stand up to protect these standards and jobs now, we can only expect that our environment will to continue to deteriorate, more toxic products and unsafe foods will enter this country and the hope for American dream will belong only to elite.

    I commend Mr. Moyers for having Mr. Leo W. Gerard on "The Journal." I grew up in a "union household." My father was a union man and worked as a Longshoreman in S.F., CA., and then in another union workplace. The ILWU--then under Harry Bridges--helped the workers when there were strikes, and I remember as a young girl, when my father and family received assistance through the union. My father picketed, as other union members did, to keep "scabs" or others from crossing the picket lines.(He wanted all his chldren to go to college so that they[we]would not have to use our hands and backs, but use our minds and have an easier life.) Yes, there were some difficult times, however, there was a passion,strength and belief in the union. I completely understand what Mr. Gerard is saying. He is an "activist" in times when activism has become rare. I do believe that the American people may have had their eyes and ears closed too long, and now they have awakened to the reality of a disaster that was already presenting warning signs. Most Americans were riding the wave; they were not involved in our country's political and economic legislation; they were not reading the "fine print" or simply not reading or listening at all. Now, I believe, people are being more attentive as they have no choice--literally their lives are at stake. The whole NAFTA agreement was a huge mistake. I was against it. In my opinion, jobs and unions go hand-in-hand. Keep the jobs in the USA. What happened to those days when my father and others like him were the workers in this country and not the exiled ones. They produced wonderful products. They worked long, and hard hours. Mr. Gerard mentioned the long hours a union man puts in, comes home, and when he is ready to retire, he or she has earned every cent of that pension. It's damn hard work. Fortunately, my father retired when the jobs were still here, in the USA and his pension was secure. He worked overtime, swing shifts, and so on. He is going to be ninety posssibly due to genes, but he is a tired man. To this day he continues to praise the unions--and yes, there were some problems with some of a couple of union leaders. There is always a rotten apple in every workplace--look at the outgoing Bush Administration. Rotten apple(s) is not the word. War Criminals is more applicable. So, one always has to look at the bigger picture. If you did not come from a union family, it may be difficult to comprehend Mr. Gerard's passion. That passion has always kept me, as Travis Smiley says, "Keep[ing] the Faith." Thank you.

    Thank you Mr Gerard for speaking clearly on this issue. For the union critics who constantly belittle unions saying they are corrupt, may we all just look at our government a moment. The crooks there are all over the news, yet we don't dismantle government because of it. We are witnessing high living crooks in business being arrested but we don't dismantle business. Don't condemn unions because some would use them for self promotion as in any area of life. My husband worked his entire life for GM both in and out of the union. When he went over to management he wages were frozen more often than not, while the union continued to gain ground for their workers. The manager from the mill sounded angry at the fact that he worked for less then people under him. All I have to say to him is join a union. I rue the day my husband left his. Today he is retired and getting letters from GM diminishing our health coverage and threatening to cancel it altogether. I so agree with Mr Gerard that health care should be off the negotiating table and dealt with like the rest of the world does to give us a level playing field. To belittle unions however for bringing it to the table while our fat cat politicans ingore it is nonsense. Thank God some one was willing to put ordinary people into the discussion about their very own existence.

    I hope to see more coverage about unionizing labor in the US. One important detail not mentioned in the broadcast and consistently overlooked by the media is that Japanese and German auto companies have unionized workers in their own countries; the U.S. serves as a non-union outpost for companies unionized at home. I think this is very important information that Americans need to know.

    A quick internet search found a recent LAT's article called The Big Three's Real Union Problem by Jonathan Cutler who explains:

    "According to the prevailing wisdom, Japanese auto companies neither trust nor understand the American notion of labor unionism. Ah, but there's the rub. The very companies that operate as nonunion transplants in the United States have always confronted a unionized workforce at home, organized by the Japanese Automobile Workers Confederation. The UAW simply never established any sort of alliance with the Japanese Automobile Workers Confederation. And yet the UAW leadership knew plenty about Japan and the Japanese labor movement. The leader of the Japanese Automobile Workers Confederation was Ichiro Shioji. As David Halberstam noted in his 1986 book, "The Reckoning," Shioji spent a year at Harvard in 1960 and then spent a summer at the UAW headquarters in Detroit, befriending all the major UAW leaders, including Walter Reuther, Leonard Woodcock and Douglas Fraser. Shioji was no stranger to the UAW.",0,1445437.story

    I myself am a college-educated, white-collar worker confused about unions. But my company is actively outsourcing jobs like mine all around me and they are actively importing foreign workers to provide vital functions usually performed by technically-skilled American workers. My workforce would oppose unionization because they perceive unions as needed by less-educated, less skilled working-class people and so don't believe that our "careers" are not threatened like those who merely seek "jobs". Yet we all know that it's just a matter of time before the rest of us lose out to India. I support unionization. But I do want to better understand how unions become corrupt and self-serving (I feel certain that is true) yet I know their value to workers and my workforce would benefit. In the meantime, I keep a small picture at my desk of Sally Field as Norma Rae standing up and holding a UNION! sign in the middle of her workplace.

    I think union or unity is all that mankind truly seek. Regarding labor unions: when the employee unites not only with his fellow employees, but equally important unionizes with the employer, only then is unity or harmony truly achieved. I think most unions fail at that point. It all comes down to equality, doesn't it? Equality unites all thing.


    Thank you so much for hosting Mr. Girard on last night's program. It was refreshing and encouraging to hear his well-spokenness and informed views - particularly because he's someone working in the trenches, and to whom we ought to listen seriously for that reason. I hope you can have him on the program again in a few months' time.

    I agree with last night's guest (President of United Steelworkers Union) on some points such as the importance of manufacturing in our country as well as the historical significance of unions in promoting safe and responsible workplaces. However, there are some points that certainly need to be discussed.

    First of all, the issue of unions speaks to a broader issue regarding how we as a society value work. As long as we continue to reward 'financial engineering' over real engineering we will see our brightest students pursue careers that do not generate products that actually benefit society. Look at emerging economies like China, India, and Brazil. In each of these countries, the highest paid professions (besides entrepreneurs) are engineers, scientists, and doctors. People that contribute to the greater good of society should be rewarded. That list should also include teachers and social workers.

    Going back to the idea of unions, I don't think unions have modernized with times. Setting aside their historical significance for a moment, I think it is important to discuss how little progress there has been within unions in terms of: i) transparency, ii) promoting the development and enhancement of technical skills through union-offered training and educational opportunities, iii) rewarding excellence, iv) establishing metrics to track individual performance and promote according to quality not seniority or political influence.

    As an example, look at tenure in academic institutions. Without a doubt, additional reforms are needed, but the concept of tenure has been updated time and time again. Historically, the idea of tenure was developed to ensure researchers could freely discuss ideas and thoughts without fear of retribution from administrators or even their peers. Scientists like Charles Darwin and Gaileo were ostracized for their beliefs, hindering the flow of knowledge and the willingness of others to pursue novel lines of reasoning. For the most part, this is not the case today; there is much less political backlash against academics for their views, and so the idea of tenure has taken a new shape. Today, it is harder to gain tenure than in the past with shorter time frames (5 vs. 10/15 years) with greater demands of productivity (published papers/books, patents, guiding students towards graduation, and of course funding). In addition, once a faculty member has received tenure, if he/she does not remain productive, the remaining faculty can withhold key appointments, promotions, teaching opportunities, and collaborations to discourage idle behavior. Similar metrics and reward systems have not been implemented into today's unions.

    From a manufacturing standpoint, without a strong base in our own country, we are subject to the demands of other countries. For example, if China becomes our principle provider of batteries and we have a political disagreement with the Chinese government, critical products can be withheld or priced higher. We would have little bargaining ability in such a case. Our greatest strengths cannot solely be military and financial in nature. We need to have the ability to produce things in our own country. Things that people around the world want to buy. We know that in today's global economy we cannot compete with other countries on price alone. We have to compete in terms of quality as well which means greater education and training for our workers and proper incentives to retain production with in the US.

    Finally, we also should think about what it means to have good paying jobs within our boarders. We cannot continue to develop our services sector without acutal products, be it agriculture, biotech/medicine, green technology, or electronics. People buy Gucci sunglasses and Coach bags over other cheaper brands. Is price really the only issue? No. We have to make products that are innovative and fulfill unmet needs.

    We still have the greatest universities and colleges in the world. We are able to recruit the world's brightest students for undergraduate as well as graduate studies. In fact, nearly 1/2 of our science and engineering graduate students are foreign nationals. Most of them want to stay in the US, but we make it extremely difficult for them to remain here and so they return to their own countries and end up creating companies that compete directly with our companies. We should be doing more to encourage Ph.D. level scientists and engineers that study here to remain here, if they wish. At the same time, we need to encourage American students to pursue careers in teaching, science, and engineering. As long as financial analysts make more in their year-end bonus than the average middle-school teacher, we'll loose quality students to unproductive sectors.

    I had jsut read this item from Media Matters for America when I listened to this evening's interview with Leo Gerard:

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: Media Matters for America
    Sent: Friday, January 09, 2009 7:04 AM
    Subject: NY Times report on EFCA ignored supporters' point that bill would eliminate only employers' right to demand secret ballot

    To UNSUBSCRIBE from Media Matters for America emails, click here:

    NY Times report on EFCA ignored supporters' point that bill would eliminate only employers' right to demand secret ballot

    A January 8 New York Times article quoted multiple opponents of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) claiming that the bill would "eliminate ... the right" to a secret-ballot election to determine whether workers wish to unionize, but did not mention that supporters of EFCA counter by pointing out, as the Times itself has previously reported, that the bill would only "take away employers' right to insist on holding a secret-ballot election" [emphasis added].

    In the January 8 article, labor and workplace reporter Steven Greenhouse quoted Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) claiming of EFCA, "It is a total game changer for the next 40 to 50 years if the Democrats are able to get this legislation that eliminates the right to a secret ballot." Greenhouse later reported:

    "We are against any bill that would effectively eliminate freedom of choice and the right to a secret ballot election," said a Wal-Mart spokesman, David Tovar. "We believe every associate" -- Wal-Mart's term for employees -- "should have the right to make a private and informed decision regarding union representation."

    But Greenhouse cited no proponent of the bill explaining that it would abolish only the employer's ability to force a secret-ballot election. Indeed, as Greenhouse himself reported in a November 8, 2008, Times article, "Business groups have attacked the legislation because it would take away employers' right to insist on holding a secret-ballot election to determine whether workers favored unionization" [emphasis added].

    As Media Matters for America documented, the House Committee on Education and Labor describes the claim that "[t]he Employee Free Choice Act abolishes the National Labor Relations Board's 'secret ballot' election process" as a "myth" and states on its website: "The Employee Free Choice Act would make that choice -- whether to use the NLRB election process or majority sign-up -- a majority choice of the employees, not the employer."

    From Greenhouse's January 8 New York Times article:

    Intent on blocking organized labor's top legislative goal, corporations are quietly contributing to lobbying groups with appealing names like the Workforce Fairness Institute and the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace.

    These groups are planning a multimillion-dollar campaign in the hope of killing legislation that would give unions the right to win recognition at a workplace once a majority of employees sign cards saying they want a union. Business groups fear the bill will enable unions to quickly add millions of workers and drive up labor costs.

    The Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, a federation of 500 business groups, ran a full-page advertisement on Wednesday that sought to discredit the legislation, called the Employee Free Choice Act. The advertisement said that if secret ballots were good enough to elect Barack Obama then they should be good enough for union members, too.

    Richard Berman, a Washington lobbyist, has created a business-backed group, the Center for Union Facts, that is planning to run millions of dollars' worth of television spots over the next few months to pressure moderate Democrats to oppose the bill.

    During last fall's presidential campaign, groups opposing the legislation spent more than $20 million on television commercials in Colorado, Maine, Minnesota and other states in an effort to defeat Democratic Senate candidates who backed the bill.

    At a confirmation hearing set for Friday, Republican senators are expected to challenge Representative Hilda L. Solis of California, President-elect Obama's choice for labor secretary, over her support for the legislation.

    Business leaders denounce the bill because it would largely eliminate secret-ballot elections to determine whether workers want a union. (The union win rate has traditionally been far higher through majority signups than elections.)

    "If you know anything about politics, it is a game changer," said Senator John Ensign, Republican of Nevada. "It is a total game changer for the next 40 to 50 years if the Democrats are able to get this legislation that eliminates the right to a secret ballot. We are fighting it hard."


    Opponents fear that the legislation will enable labor to become a wealthier and more powerful political force. Union leaders see the bill as crucial for reversing labor's long decline -- unions represent just 7.5 percent of private-sector workers, down from nearly 40 percent a half-century ago.

    John Engler, president of the National Association of Manufacturers, said that if Wal-Mart's United States work force of 1.4 million were unionized, that could mean $500 million in additional union dues collected each year -- tens of millions of which might be used to support Democratic causes and candidates.

    Acknowledging that Wal-Mart presents a formidable challenge, labor leaders say they hope to unionize up to 100 of Wal-Mart's more than 4,000 United States stores for starters, which might add 30,000 members.

    "We are against any bill that would effectively eliminate freedom of choice and the right to a secret ballot election," said a Wal-Mart spokesman, David Tovar. "We believe every associate" -- Wal-Mart's term for employees -- "should have the right to make a private and informed decision regarding union representation."

    Labor leaders say they do not oppose secret-ballot elections, but rather the bitter two-month management-versus-union campaigns that often precede elections. Union leaders say those campaigns are usually unfair because corporations often fire union supporters and press their anti-union views day and night in one-on-one sessions and large meetings while union organizers are prohibited from company property.

    Labor leaders said that last month they won one of the biggest unionization victories in years for the nearly 5,000 workers at the Smithfield pork processing plant in Tar Heel, N.C., by insisting on what they said were fairer rules.

    If the bill is enacted, unions say they will try to organize workers by quietly getting a majority to sign pro-union cards before companies can begin an anti-union campaign. In theory, a union organizer or pro-union employee would have an easy time signing up a majority of, say, the 25 workers at a McDonald's, the 15 baristas at a Starbucks or the 50 aides at a nursing home.

    Corporations also oppose a provision of the bill that would allow government arbitrators to determine the terms of a contract when no agreement has been reached within 120 days of a union's winning recognition. Defending that provision, labor leaders say companies often undermine newly formed unions by dragging out contract talks for months, even years.

    "The idea of negotiating a contract and turning it over to an arbitrator who has no interest in the company or the workers' future and then can dictate the terms of a contract, that's a pretty reckless way to go," said Mr. Engler of the manufacturers' association. "This is the one issue that everybody who's an employer agrees is a bad idea."

    The New York Times
    Clark Hoyt, NY Times public editor
    (212) 556-7652
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    New York, NY 10018

    New York Times

    You can help support our work; become a volunteer media monitor, or donate to Media Matters for America.

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    I kept wondering why Leo didn't try to emphasize the point that workers are the ones who choose to have either an NLRB monitored election or a sign up card choice.

    I really must laugh at the fools writing here that disparage the unions! I have personally worked as a union worker and as a non union worker. Let me tell everyone here that I much prefer the union worker label! I have worked for a dollar an hour under the table, with no benefits - and for union wages with benefits. I much prefer the latter because I was able to provide myself and my three children with a decent place to live, good food on our table, a car to drive to my work and health care for all of us because of my union job.

    As for those that say the unions are crooked – what’s new? That is what is going on all over our world and always has been. That is what ordinary people just trying to make a living for themselves and their families have to put up with everywhere! From warlords in Asia, to union bosses in America and everywhere in between.

    What we need is to demand that corruption not be tolerated, no matter where it occurs. We don’t need to do away with decent wages and benefits on the excuse of a little corruption.

    Leo Gerard was a breath of fresh air to me tonight. We need to have universal health care for everyone and take the pressure off of our employers.

    Workers need bargaining power. Just as Gerard said, the little trucks need to get around too and we’re not going to do that merely on the good will of the big trucks....

    allowing union representation by "card counts" is dead wrong.What it really does is eliminate the employer's right to counter Union's untrue representations .The real answer is to have the NLRB actively prosecute companies who use threats, promises and intimidations which interfere with a workers right to vote for the Union of their choice.

    On its face it would seem that a secret ballot would be the most democratic way to cast votes for or against unionization; the method most likely to prevent company bosses, union organizers or coworkers from intimidating or interfering with workers during an election.

    When Bill Moyers asked Leo Gerard why he's against a secret ballot, Gerard didn't answer the question directly. If a secret ballot is the preferred and most democratic method of voting for our political representatives, why not support a secret ballot for unionizing? As a strong supporter of unions and workers' rights, what am I missing here?

    I voted against unionizing in the plant that I work. The reasons were that I do not need anyone to negotiate my job or salary for me, and that I see the union as a self-serving, interference in individuals lives. If I do not like the place where I work, I should leave. Indentured service is not the law of the land, nor is guaranteed work. Unions were needed when "barons of industry" controlled large segments of our economy. I do not beleive it possible for that type of tyranny to be exerted in today's work place. If employers cannot keep employees by paying them decently, they will go out of business. Again, today's economy is not like in the day when the Henry Ford's or John Rockefeller's were able to personally control industry. I believe the situation has moved beyond that possibility. The union leaders are stuck in the past and fear losing their power and self-ordained importance. The dogma of the unions that they are protecting workers is based in fearmongering and xenophobia. "Keep American jobs for Americans" implies that some great evil (big business or foreign interests) is striving to destroy America. It is neither. It isn't Toyota making cars in Alabama, those are American citizens being paid decent salaries. And make note that a large number of Americans are shareholders in Toyota. It is more of our own unrealistic view that because we are Americans, we are entitled. And if we do not get what we are due, then someone or something else is to blame. Not us gas-guzzling-Hummer-driving-credit-card-flashing-subprime-motgage-holding-lottery-playing-by-god-I-deserve-it-all-Americans.

    I'm a retired professional -- never in a union. But reading many of the comments on this page, I see the fruits of several decades of successful anti-union propaganda.

    Unions? They're "thugs". They're "greedy". They make American business "uncompetitive". How easily the words (the "memes" like those) come to mind.

    We've learned those words from the same think tanks that taught us all to oppose "death taxes" (even though 99% of us will benefit from those tax revenues and pay none of those taxes).

    We learned it from the same special interests that taught us since Reagan's days that government (and especially regulators) are bad, and the market is always efficient (except when it collapses of its own greed and unregulated excesses).

    Why are our minds so malleable? Why are we so easily persuaded to call multi-million dollar CEO bonuses "market-based compensation", but to call hardworking Americans "greedy" when they seek the help of a union to ask for health care, retirement benefits and a decent wage to support their families.

    My compliments to Nancy V on a very thoughtful blog.

    The Elitists have really programmed the average American against the "evils" of the unions, to the point that even some union workers believe it. I think it is ironic that the CEO's driving their Porches and Beamers think that the average American shouldn't be paid enough to own a Chevy. Let me get this straight; the guy costing the company 15M is saying the guy that actually builds the car isn't worth $60,000. This from the guy that is responsible for the poor product, and the lack of product innovation.

    I ask you, what was wrong with the America that actually built good "union made"," American made" products built on union wages, probably on one of the higher wage scales in the world in the 60's? Ceo's made far less, the workers far more, percentage wise, and America flourished! The CEO's of today are totally self absorbed, and almost criminal in their gluttony. They couldn't care less about America, and would prefer slaves over paid workers. A financial economy should be deep sixed, and replaced with a manufacturing one.

    This brings me to the second part of tonight's program about the "pork" and how the Senate and its Senators want to keep it just the way it is. What a sham. These guys should be voted out of office at the first opportunity and replaced by some Americans that aspire to be patriots and work on America's behalf, not their own. A sham and a shame. Wake up voters! Start voting for the American good, not what's good for you, as what is good for America is good for you. Take the time to educate yourself about these people on the ballot, and don't vote with your wallet, or you're no better than these self serving, bought and paid for representatives, that now fill the senate. The Dems and Rs have been this way for a long, long time, so don't start the us against them routine. These are the people that because of the Ceo's pressure and payments have stopped the environmental progress that is much required. It is bad for profits to need to clean up mine waste, it is bad for profits to clean up air pollution. Because of this we have a Global warming problem and a failing water table. Wake up America. Thank God the youth have!

    I hope President Obama does what he thinks is right, period; for that is what America and the world needs. God knows, we have had much of the other.

    Thanks once again to Bill Moyer for bringing these events and guests to the us, the people. What a guy, what a program..thanks PBS.

    I've seen both the good and the bad of unions. Nancy V. @ January 10, 2009 12:08 AM is right about the good side of unions, but the bad side comes from the fact that unions are "workers organizing workers". That explains how the "thugs" can move into power and give unions a bad name. The workers are too afraid to lose their jobs to speak out and the good union officials are too afraid to clean house because it might cost them their own position.

    There has to be some mechanism where the thugs can be forced out so that men and women of good will can run the union. If Gerard wants to convince people to support the unions--so that people can join freely or not--then let him begin by cleaning house from the bottom up, and find a way to keep the unions clean.

    No more thugs in the work place.

    We absolutely need more unions and more of the approach that US companies pay a penalty to move jobs off shore. The facts indicate that US CEOs make a higher multiple of the average wage earned by their workers than many if not most other countries. And while US productivity has climbed for years, real wages for those who generated that productivity have not kept pace. Working class people who insist they don't want or need a union are fooling themselves. The suits have the money, the only thing we can counter with is strength in numbers.

    I was very impressed with the interview with Leo Gerard of the United Steelworkers. However, it saddened me to read the same old hackneyed blogs about the "evils" of unions and how they over pay "lazy" workers. What is so sad is that these remarks often come from those who are privileged to work for a union company.
    The unions gave us the 40 hour work week, the enforcent of child labor laws, a safer work environment, overtime pay, health care, lunch breaks and decent pay for an honest days work. They helped pass the legislation to establish OSHA.

    Those opposed to unions would like the American worker to be on par with the slave workers in Third World Countries. Isn't it weird that those opposed to unions blame workers "greed" for the state of our economy, but have no problem with CEO's golden parachutes and the obscene amount of money they take away from failing companies and American taxpayers?
    Without the American worker earning decent pay and medical coverage who will afford to buy the products of American business? Surely not the poor people of Asia and Africa.

    I appreciate Mr. Gerard and wish his perspective would merit more attention by the mainstream media.

    The card check is a very bad idea. I worked in a warehouse in AZ a right to work state. My brother in law came to work for a summer job when in school. He was going to work about 8 weeks. I was pressured by my co-workers of 4 years to kick him out of my house unless he paid the join fees and paid the fees for 8 weeks. My car was threatened by the union stewarts, and many of my co -workers that I thought were friends stopped talking to me. I did not feel it was the right thing to do, and ignored the pressure. I went to the Local union office that represented us and it just made it worse. They turned a blind eye. The interview where the rep from the steel workers union is not being truthfull about how this would affect work place pressure. I ended up leaving that company frustrated with the simpleminded thinking of the people I had considered friends/co-workers.

    Your comments on Israel and Gaza are skewed by your desire to be "humanitarian" but thats only half the issue.
    Speaking of "brute force", what country drops leaflets before it bombs ? Or contacts every cell phone in Gaza for its owner to leave the area ? Question: Why didnt Egypt take the Gazans - women and children during this war ? Where is their humanitarianism and why doesnt the press ask them that question ? This whole issue has been skewed by Reuters, and other media to make Israel guilty in protecting it's citizens.

    I have always maintained that workers must be able to afford what they make for any economy to succeed. But wages can be too high OR prices too high. And though I'm sure he understands that China, India, et al constitute the largest reserve army the world has ever seen, and that they deserve the same consideration as Americans, he doesn't seem to understand, and if I recall correctly, failed to understand the last time he was here, is that the main cause of the disparity of wealth and income has not been our trade deficit, but the progressive central bank policy that in the presumed interest of workers and the country as a whole has for decades encouraged consumption through easy credit, a force, too, in bringing on the 1929 Crash and the Depression of the 1930's. Had the country had sound money, depending on the labor and savings of workers, it would have been impossible for mkts not to regulate themselves, in the absence of the external forces. I'm afraid workers have to the best of their ability tried to ride this gravy train the same as everyone else, but believe me, sound money is in the best interest of unions, because easy money can only appreciate unproductive assets and depreciate labor, causing economic contraction.

    Yes, organized labor has suffered a generation of legislative abuse. In addition, labor has suffered from ideas that are cockeyed, that can be easily parodied, as the *free choice act.* Whoever came up with that idea cannot tell the difference between a good and a bad idea. It gives labor a bad name and indicates labor is unable to choose good leadership. It's a disaster in the making, as Gerard's lame defense showed clearly.

    I think in some ways unions are good, collective barging and workers rights. In others they are really awful. As some have already pointed out they support lazy corrupt workers and union reps.

    When I was 22 I had a first hand experience with the restaurant union in NYC.
    I was working a part time as a busboy at a hotel.

    It was a very low level job.
    I was not working enough hours to join the union, and yet I was forced to.
    In fact I was threatened with violence. I left the job after a week or so of intimidation. For a couple of weeks after management kept calling me to come back as they had a shortage of busboys. I refused and told them why. They wanted me to file a police report. I never did as I took the threat seriously. The union rep in this place was a thug,
    I latter found out that before he came to the US that he was a member of the Greek police force during the time of military junta rule in the 60's and 70's.

    Ref: JOURNAL guest and EFCA supporter Leo Gerard, International President of United Steelworkers

    Yes, yes, yes! Never been in a union, but for once I was shouting while watching and listening. Since the Reagan administration, American working people have been under (successfull) attack. Not for the first time, of course, but certainly since the economic surge after World War II. Capital and labor are irrevocably linked and interdependent. Destroy the one, and the other is sure to follow. Force Americans to produce in competition with third world workers, and America will lean ever more into becoming a third world state. At last someone who states the problems succinctly, and not through the hocus pokus of the "economic experts." Hopefully the American people can come together and bring about the massive changes needed.

    My extended family has worked both union and non-union as well as management.
    I have no problem with being known as a card carrying member of a union, non-union organization or mangement group. But when it comes to voting on issues or expressing opinions, there should be a choice for individual privacy. I agree with Mcgovern.

    I found Leo Gerard's comments to often be very misleading and off the mark. I had the experience many years ago, of a vote for whether to have a union in a company in New Jersey, and back then, the vote was done with misinformation and direct intimidation by the union representatives, with implied threats to the workers if they voted against the union. I had the experience of being the only one of about 80 employees who stood up to the union, actually tearing up the vote card in the face of the "muscle" the union representative brought in to intimidate the workers. The 2nd commercial shown during this segment of your problem actually DID remind me of that part of my youth.

    I've personally organized employees to collectively bargain with management when it was needed, but while I know that there is potential good to come from unions, there's also a lot of corruption, and I was able to see a lot of it firsthand. I was forced to be a member of a union, and all that succeeded in doing in my case was to deprive me of a good chunk of the money I was paid that was deducted from my paycheck as union dues, and prevent me from working in a place where compensation is based on merit.

    It is outrageous to require that votes must be cast in the open for a union, or that if most people at a company join a union, all other people are forced to join. Let people join or leave unions as they see fit, and if a union wants to strong-arm itself into a company, let it provide the threat of a strike to force management to concede to its demands. That's not the place of government to help unions to force workers to belong to them.

    Excellent example of what TV should be.

    But Leo Gerard's comments on health care should have included the information that the present system is just plain WASTEFUL. 31% of health care premiums go to wasted costs, imposed by the health insurance industry, that have nothing to do with delivering actual health care.

    That's %350 billion per year, about 20 times the total of all those earmarks we keep hearing about.

    Directly following the interview with Leo Gerard, the program devoted a major segment to earmark abuses. But wasted healthcare costs 20 times greater than the total of all earmark costs were not even mentioned in the exchange on healthcare with Leo Gerard.

    Here's an important fact that George McGovern should know: the Employee Free Choice Act would return union formation to its status under the Wagner Act. For decades after FDR signed the Wagner Act in 1935, unions could be formed when a majority of workers at a workplace put their signatures on cards saying they wanted one. McGovern's "precious" secret ballot election requirement is a recent development.
    In addition, remember this, when signatures are counted, those seeking the union absolutely must obtain support from more than half of the workers. When it's a secret ballot, it doesn't matter how many workers show up to vote. The majority of those who bother to cast ballots rules.

    Reaction to the analysis of Israëli-Palestinian GAZA dilemma:

    "Here, Here"

    "Good for him!" [Bill Moyers]

    How refreshing to hear something intelligent spoken about American workers and our rights. Thank you for an important and timely interview.

    The geeks who have wrecked the financial markets ought not be paid a penny over what a GS 12 is paid.

    The bailout of the exlpoiters disgraces all politicians who support it.

    I am glad to hear someone call the senators and representatives from states that support foreign automobile makers with state supported tax breaks and other incentives called to task. No one can take the Senator Sheby seriously when he talks two ways at conce.

    Leo Gerard is a great speaker who has the ability to convey the purpose of Unions. It is too bad the majority of Americans have not seen this interview.
    This is for the Unknown manager at the Mill. If you are so bitter about your (union) place of employment then why don't you get the job over at the non-union mill you so praise? Anti union rhetoric is full of contradictions.
    The Canadians are doing well by the way, every citizen is covered by health insurance, I do not see them complaining. America has become a country of corruption and waste and it is unacceptable.

    That ad is exactly what I went through when I started my job at krogers in Houston. About 20 people in our area wetre brought together and asked to vote with this color card for yes and another color for no so they know what you voted for without looking at your card. This was 2007.

    I have problems with the message of the Union Leader on this program. I agree that major change is needed if our economy and country are to survive. And I think some form of collective bargaining is needed because in most cases an individual worker must rely on the enlightened good will of an employer to get paid a living wage; greed of investors and managers work against that. However, I didn't get an understanding of why adding bargaining power won't cause U.S. products to be priced out of the market. I also don't get how EPCA won't reduce voter privacy rather than improve it. Regarding voter intimidation, employers can still threaten to move factories and cut jobs if a union is voted in. I would prefer legislation that prevented workers who don't pay union dues from getting union-won benefits.

    Moyer should look into the reason Unions fell out of favor with many workers in the last half ot the 20th century. John Dos Pasos wrote his acclaimed pro-labor epic "U.S.A" trilogy early in the century. Later he wrote "Midcentury," in which he expressed his vast disappointment with union corruption, including professional union leaders with little or no experience doing the work their members did.

    I work in a steel mill. I'm management, I make about 77K per year and I have a graduate degree. Most of the union people who work for me are high school drop outs, some have high school diplomas, a few have a 2 year degree and on average they make 100K per year. They've gotten used to living on 100K per year earned on overtime and incentive, but are now facing the reality of living on their 45k base salary. At a point in time when management are doing all we can to save money to keep the mill open, most of the union guys are filing grievances because they are no longer being paid over time. They seem to believe excessive overtime is a right. This is a very good example of people living beyond their means. Whose fault is that? I assure you the union will tell you it's the company's fault. I've also sat in on Grievance Boards and can tell you first hand the union does use intimidation and they will cover an unprodutive employee simply because the employee is union. Management has no recourse and we have to deal with it. 20% of the labor force does 80% of the work. Everyone else is simply there to collect a paycheck. The USW is killing a great mill I've had the privilidge of working in for most of my adult life. On the other hand, the non-union shops outside the mill are seeing growth. If the card check comes into play, the union will strangle those shops as well. It really is pathetic.

    Excellent interview with Leo Gerard, who made a very strong case for unions to help workers earn a decent living in the U.S. Don't know if he will capture the popular imagination with his serious approach though. Thank you, Jill M.

    What do I think? I think that Mr. Gerard is a bitter, socialist Canadian loser who is determined to drag this country down the same s-hole that his native country is presently swirling down. When George McGovern's opinion is too RIGHTwing for you, you know your Stalinist tendencies are getting a little too strong - eh Leo? 8-)

    Like a lot of Moyer's guests, Gerard was thoughtful, interesting, and in great need of help summarizing for the modern attention span. It's easy to give the anti-union message in the all important seven words or less: "unions prevent the firing of lazy people".
    Labor must figure out the antidote to this simple but effective attack (and how do give more inspiring interviews), or perish in a sea of indifference.

    Bravo for interviewing Leo Gerard, an excellent thinker who is under-recognized by a news media that shows every sign of being utterly beholden to corporate leadership.

    For example, The Charlie Rose show has interviewed GE executive Jack Welch (notoriously hostile to labor) 7 times, according to the Charlie Rose website. GM executive Rick Wagoner has appeared 4 times. Robert Nardelli, 2 times.

    Granted, this is little more than anecdotal. But it is safe to say that anti-labor figures enjoy far more coverage nationwide than do pro-labor, not least because of the general conservatism of American political discussion.

    The EPCA is the most important piece of legislation for America's workers since the Wagner Act. It gives the workers a choice -- a choice of card check or a secret ballot vote. As the system stands now there is no real choice. One in four workers is fired for advocating a union, in clear violation of the law. If that worker is ever returned to work -- a big if -- the employer has already won because it will take 2 years to get the Board to bring the worker back. By that time, it's all over.

    George McGovern's objections are really unproven. If you go back over NLRB cases over the past 40 years the number of cases of employer intimidation outweigh union intimidation by 50 to 1. Today, the employer knows exactly how each employee will vote in an union election. No one who treasures the secret ballot in this country each November should ever have to submit the rigged conditions of employer-dominated union election.

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