Leveling the Playing Field

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While corporate CEOs and Wall Street banks continue to enjoy skyrocketing corporate profits—despite having tanked the economy with their excess and greed—middle-class families are still struggling just to get by. On top of that, this past year has seen unprecedented attacks on the most basic worker protections.

Today, though, there appears to be some good news for the protection of workers’ rights. The National Labor Relations Board is holding hearings today and tomorrow to take public comment on proposed rules changes that would simplify and speed-up the union election process, helping to level the playing field for workers.

For many years, the federal government has allowed employers to use long delays, technical challenges, and union-busting tactics in order to prevent workers from holding an election to form a union.

But rules changes proposed by the NLRB would simplify the process and allow for a vote in a timely manner.

Why is this important? Over at Blue Oregon, Joanne Kennedy—a pharmacy technician and a member of SEIU Local 49—talks about why these changes matter:

This is very welcome news considering my co-workers and I just went through an election under the old process at St. Charles Medical Center in Bend. We know first hand that the process is very out of date and badly in need of modernization and reforms. You can find out more about the proposed changes on the NLRB website.

After spending several months building a strong majority of union support at St. Charles, my co-workers and I went to the labor board to request a union election be held at our hospital. We expected an election date to be set right away. Instead pharmacy technicians like me were told that our right to vote was being challenged. In fact, employers routinely stall an election with these sorts of challenges. It is often confusing and unfair to those who simply want to vote on union membership. Why do they do this?

Kennedy also includes a story from Florida about health care workers who attempted to hold a union election beginning in 2007. Their employer dragged out the process using legal maneuvers and challenges—all at the advice of a union-busting consultant—for four years. Eventually, the workers gave up without ever getting a vote.

As the effects of the recession continue to hammer middle-class families, workers need protections to help level the playing field. The NLRB changes are small but important steps to restoring some level of balance and equity.

Want to add your voice in support of these changes? Go here to add your name to an online petition organized by SEIU.

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