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Democracy Denied at Work
Study finds U.S. labor law fails to meet democratic standards in elections for union representation
 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 07, 2005

CONTACT:
Kimberly Freeman

202-822-2127 x111
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WASHINGTON, DC - American Rights at Work today released "Free and Fair? How Labor Law Fails U.S. Democratic Election Standards ."  The report offers a detailed analysis of how fundamental principles governing American elections are systematically denied to those seeking union representation at work under the current process outlined in U.S. labor law and administered by the National Labor Relations Board.

"No political challenger could get elected under these guidelines," said University of Oregon Associate Professor Gordon Lafer, the political scientist who authored the report. "The system is so corrupt that it doesn't remotely resemble the democratic process we think of when we use the term 'election.'"

"Free and Fair?" measures the union representation election process against democratic election standards established by the political philosophy and published works of the Founding Fathers, the historical development of electoral law and jurisprudence, and current statutes and regulations that define "free and fair" elections.  The report reveals a series of one-sided advantages extended to employers, as well as significant barriers imposed upon pro-union workers and their unions.  Lafer's examination concludes that:

  • Workers' free speech rights are squelched on the job.

  • Workers are restricted from openly distributing literature while employers have free reign to do so.

  • Employers deny essential employee information to thwart pro-union workers' access to their coworkers.

  • Employers and supervisors practice various forms of economic coercion with the clear intent to grant or take away privileges based upon an employee's position on the union.

  • Existing and excessively permissive labor law allows employers to indefinitely delay recognition of a union through a drawn-out appeals process.

  • There is virtually no limitation or documentation of campaign expenditures during the union recognition campaign process.

"Every high school civics student knows that elections aren't fair without free speech, equal access to voters and the media, and freedom from voter coercion," said former Congressman David Bonior, Board Chair of American Rights at Work.  "Gordon Lafer's research confirms that the system for union recognition is badly broken and profoundly undemocratic.  Any reform of existing labor law must begin with this understanding."

"Free and Fair?" is particularly relevant to the current debate in Congress about how workers form unions.  Two bills introduced this year reflect differing opinions on whether the current system sufficiently ensures a democratic process.   The Secret Ballot Protection Act (H.R. 874), sponsored by Congressman Charlie Norwood (R-GA), seeks to restrict union formation exclusively to the current system.  The Employee Free Choice Act (H.R. 1696 and S. 842), sponsored by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), and Representatives Peter King (R-NY) and George Miller (D-CA), would provide alternatives that guarantee that workers can exercise their democratic rights to form unions and successfully negotiate a contract with their employers.

"Free and Fair? How Labor Law Fails U.S. Democratic Election Standards," is the first in a series of reports commissioned by American Rights at Work that will spotlight the widespread deficiencies of present-day labor law.

For a copy of the complete report please click here.