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The State of the Union's Workers
American Rights at Work Condemns Erosion of Worker Freedoms

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 2, 2005

CONTACT:
Kimberly Freeman
202-822-2127, ext. 111
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WASHINGTON, DC—American workers face a state of the union that is fraught with a steady erosion of rights and freedoms ranging from the curtailment of the basic right of freedom of association to workplace conditions that violate civil and human rights.

“While the President pushes his agenda of spreading freedom around the world, the U.S. badly needs to address the state of affairs for workers at home,” maintains David Bonior, Chair of American Rights at Work.  “As a result of employer anti-union campaigns, backed by weak labor laws, more than 23,000 workers are fired or experience discrimination every year for attempting to exercise their freedom of association.”    

Workers should have little confidence that the White House will reverse the trend.  Last week the administration moved to strip collective bargaining rights from tens of thousands of Department of Homeland Security workers.  The President has also failed to endorse the Employee Free Choice Act, federal legislation which would provide meaningful protections for workers who wish to form unions and bargain. 

“President Bush advocates for a so-called ownership society, yet his administration turns its back on the hard-working Americans trying to make a better life for themselves by attempting to form unions and negotiate with their employers,” notes Mary Beth Maxwell, Executive Director of American Rights at Work.

Through its Workers’ Rights Clearinghouse, American Rights at Work has collected hundreds of stories from workers across the country who have been spied on, demoted, intimidated, and fired for union activities.  According to research by Cornell University’s Kate Bronfenbrenner, 75 percent of employers facing organizing drives hire ‘union-avoidance’ consultants, over 50 percent illegally threaten to close down work sites if employees form a union, and 25 percent fire pro-union employees.

Despite persistent employer retaliation against pro-union employees, the Bush-appointed majority of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)—the federal agency charged with enforcing labor law—continues to issue decisions ridding workers of important legal protections. In 2004, the NLRB reversed precedent and decided that many disabled workers and graduate research and teaching assistants are not workers.  The NLRB also recently made it much more difficult for temporary employees to form unions when it banned temp agency employees from organizing and bargaining together with permanent employees without the consent of both their employer and temp agency. As a result of another NLRB decision last year, employers may now prohibit communications between workers expressing displeasure or anger over working conditions.

“Workers who stand up for themselves are now in double jeopardy—attacked by their employer and abandoned by the federal agency created to protect them,” says David Bonior.