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Save the hollow promises and give us action

David Van Os 

Notes From a Texas Patriot


Labor Day, September 7, 2009


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Save the hollow promises and give us action.


It is Labor Day 2009, and many politicians, especially Democrats, will make speeches of grand rhetorical flourish in which they pledge their undying support to the causes and needs of America’s workers.

I have a message back to the politicians. America’s working people don’t need empty rhetoric. Save the hollow promises and give us ACTION.


First, stop dithering around and pass the Employee Free Choice Act.  Surveys have shown for years, and continue to show, that most workers want to have a labor union to defend them and represent them, and would choose labor union representation if it weren’t for the fear of losing their jobs through employer retaliation and the fear that electing union representation would be a futile gesture not worth the risk of retaliatory job loss. EFCA would restrain the almost unlimited ability that employers have under current law to coerce workers out of union representation through fear and to make the election of union representation an exercise in futility.


Under current law, after workers sign a petition stating they wish to be represented in their workplace by a designated union of their choice, the employer is able to require the conduct of an election by written balloting supervised by the National Labor Relations Board. The election campaign, which is generally 6 weeks long, gives the employer virtually unlimited freedom to scare and coerce the workers who signed the petition out of their choice of union representation.  Under EFCA, workers would be immediately entitled to union representation upon the submission of the signed petition if the signatures comprise a majority of the affected workers in the employment of the employer ("card check"). The workers would no longer be subject to the employer’s fear campaign to scare them out of voting their desires for representation in the written ballot election.  


The corporate voices that today are opposing the card check provision of EFCA on the claim that they support democracy in the choice of union representation, and that the written ballot procedure provides democracy while the presentation of a signed card check petition does not, are the dishonest and hypocritical purveyors of a ridiculous joke. These same robber barons have never previously given two hoots for democracy in the workplace much less in the choice of union representation.  These same corporate voices who have suddenly discovered they love democracy in the workplace have spent decades making a high art form out of trying to overturn the results of written ballot elections for union representation. Their newly found profession of respect for employees choosing union representation by written ballot is such a giant hollow shell a hurricane could blow through it.  In opposing the simple, efficient, speedy, signed petition procedure for union representation by card check,  these corporate liars are simply doing what they have always done – oppose workers’ just demands for union representation. 


EFCA would also force employers to agree to reasonable collective bargaining agreements with workers who are seeking their first agreements after winning union representation.


Under current law, an employer who is determined to deprive workers of their right of union representation can easily do so even after the workers have been certified to have a union represent them pursuant to a successful written ballot election.  All the employer has to do is reject the new union’s proposals for contract terms while going through the motions and pretending to negotiate in good faith.  Under current law, if the employer hasn’t agreed to the terms of a contract within 12 months after the date the union was certified as the new representative of the workers pursuant to an election, the workers may then petition the NLRB to decertify the union.  Under current law, all the employer needs to do is go through the motions of negotiating for 12 months but need not actually agree to anything offered by the union.  The employer does this in order to frustrate the workers and demonstrate to them that electing union representation was an exercise in futility. Through this practice the employers often achieve their desired result of leaving the workers so frustrated that they give up and opt out of union representation.


Under EFCA, the union would be able to place the contract stalemate before a neutral arbitrator who would decide upon the terms to be included in the contract.  Through this procedure the workers would definitely obtain their first collective bargaining contract with their employer. Once that first contract is in place, it is much harder for the employer to dislodge union representation in subsequent negotiations for succeeding contracts. By then the workers are used to the benefits of union representation and typically will fight to keep it.


If the politicians, especially the Democrats, had genuinely been as true to the cause of workers that they profess to support as to their big money donors, EFCA would have already made it into law. However, the Obama administration so far has not gone into anything approaching a full court press to get it passed. Due to the weakness of leadership and the embrace of "market forces" that he has demonstrated so far in other areas, I doubt seriously that the president will ever go into a full charge to pass EFCA; or if he does, it will be for a seriously weakened version that will hardly be worth the effort.  


Nevertheless, the many Democratic members of Congress who love to go to union picnics on Labor Day and proclaim their love for workers do not have to wait for Barack Obama. They need to show what they are made of and pass EFCA despite the barrage of resistance the corporations have met them with so far and will continue to meet them with.  Actions are much louder than words, and passing EFCA would be one of the best ways to honor Labor Day. 


There is another best way to honor Labor Day, and that is to trash the pending congressional bills for health care reform and start over. These bills were written with the participation of the greedy giant insurance and health care corporations whose greed caused our current medical cost crisis in the first place. The fundamental, core problem is that President Obama decided to play nice-nice with the predators and robber barons and accommodate their rapacious greed. As long as any of the robber barons helped to write or are supporting legislation, I cannot believe such legislation is good for the people, because the greed of monopoly power does not go away and does not correct itself.


The past eight months have shown that Barack Obama is an accommodator and appeaser. In the matter of health care and health insurance he seeks to accommodate opposing forces that are not reconcilable. The inherent greed of oligopoly economic power cannot reconcile with the inherent needs of working people for health care they can afford.  President Obama needs to wake up and realize that he cannot both limit the power of greed and at the same time please the greedy. Tough choices must be made, and in this fight President Obama needs to choose which side he’s on. He can’t be on both.


The current pending bills will give the insurance predators something they heretofore could only have dreamed about: a captive market of the whole country through a government mandate that everybody buy their products, but without any legal or regulatory limits on the prices they charge for the products or the quality of the services they provide. The so-called public option is not a sufficient solution because such legislation still does not limit the prices the health insurance robber barons can charge for their products, nor does it forbid their ruthless practice of denying coverage for doctor-recommended procedures and treatments for their insured customers. Instead, the public option concept relies on the very same mythical, magical "market forces" that fueled the growth of today’s corporate oligarchy and proved ineffective to restrain the behaviors of greed. To assume that adding a new player to "the market" will make "the market" suddenly work to restrain itself (the morally and intellectually bankrupt theory of the discredited "free marketers") is to fail to confront the real causes rooted in the robber barons’ greed for obscene profits and the scandalous costs they charge their consumers. 


Working people do not need more worship of the false god of "the market". A true Labor Day gift to America’s workers would be to scrap the pending bills that only offer a pretense of health care reform and start over with strong legislation that directly regulates the costs of medical care and medical insurance, directly prohibits the robber barons’ practices of denying coverage to their insured customers for doctor-recommended procedures and treatments, and directly prohibits the robber barons from using remote doctors who never see the patients to overrule the medical treatments and protocols recommended by the patients’ treating physicians.


We cannot eliminate the flawed human emotion of greed. But we can legally bar its application; and we have done so for many decades in our lawmaking.  Lawmakers have long known how to write laws to regulate both the prices that can be charged to the consumer and the quality of service to be provided by public utilities such as electric companies and telephone companies. Isn’t health insurance at least as important a commodity as electricity from an electric company and electronic communications service from a telephone company? Instead of strengthening the oligopoly economic power of the insurance companies through a false pretense of reform as the currently pending bills do, instead of trying to appease and pacify the robber baron insurance companies as these bills do, we should demand that the members of Congress take on the insurance companies, give us the fighting protection that we need, stop prostituting themselves to the robber barons for money for their next re-election campaigns, bypass the weak and timid non-leadership coming from the White House, and enact stringent laws regulating health insurance premiums, deductibles, co-pays, coverage practices, and all the rest of the greedy trickery with which many thousands of families facing serious illness are only too familiar in the United States of America in the first decade of the 21st century. It is a national scandal and disgrace. The career politicians will not give the people relief of their own accord. We the People must demand it of them in a resounding voice. Are we ready to do that? 

Thank you for your attention.



David Van Os