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Give workers a hand

by and

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Just as insincere as the anti-abortionists who claim to be protecting women are the anti-laborites who claim to be protecting workers.

Because of its “right to work” law, or, as it’s sometimes called, the “right to work cheap” law, Arkansas has always been short of union jobs and union wages. This is a big reason why Arkansas stays near the bottom of all the states in per capita income and other measures of economic well-being. On the average, union workers earn 30 percent more than non-union workers, and they are much more likely to have health and retirement benefits.

But even in states that allow higher wages for their working people, unions have been diminished in recent years. Right-wing national administrations have weakened the labor laws intended to protect workers, while corporate bosses have become ever more determined to keep employees undercompensated and unempowered, so as to achieve even greater returns for upper-class shareholders. At the same time, incompetent and/or dishonest CEOs have been drawing seven-figure salaries, and accepting huge retirement packages when they flee just before the deputy sheriffs arrive.

The Employee Free Choice Act now before the U.S. Senate would restore a bit of balance to the labor laws. Currently, an employer can require that an election be held to determine whether workers will be unionized, an election that is conducted under procedures favoring management. The Free Choice Act pays workers the compliment of treating them like adults, declaring them capable of making their own decisions. In addition to the election process, which would still be available if they wanted to use it, workers would be allowed to decide the question of unionhood by signing authorization cards — majority wins, just like in a real democracy. The Free Choice Act would also strengthen penalties for companies that coerce or intimidate employees — practices that are not rare — and require mediation and binding arbitration when the employer and the union can’t agree on a first contract, another common occurrence.

The bill is hotly contested — big money on one side, the working people of Arkansas on the other. Senators Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor will have to choose.

Why does he hate America?

“USA Today’s got a poll: ‘Do you think something’s wrong about the firing of eight U.S. attorneys?’ 72 percent said yes. 72 percent of the American people, a bunch of blithering idiots who have no idea what they’re talking about, but yet they voted, so these polls matter.” — Rush Limbaugh (3/29/07)

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