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Unions are rising like a phoenix

Posted: November 1, 2009 8:44 p.m.
Updated: November 2, 2009 4:30 a.m.

The burst of flame that consumes the bird momentarily blinds me.

One moment, I behold a beautiful red and yellow-plumed avian.

The next, a carcass fully involved in flame being reduced to mere ashes before my eyes.

Not even my first failed attempts at cooking chicken on the barbecue approaches the conflagration I am witnessing.  

Not even the end of the Dodgers’ season against the Phillies compares. Not even the Obama health plan’s self-destruction replicates the heat and flame of this fireball.

After several brief moments, the only thing that remains of the bird are ashes at the bottom of the perch. ... But wait.

The top of the ashes stirs. From beneath the pile emerges a small beak, then a head, then a neck. It is a young version of the original bird reborn from the ashes. A Phoenix in all of its glory.

It looks directly at me, and opens its beak. From the bowels of its young throat it croaks “Union.” And a chill runs down my spine.

Today, like the Phoenix, we see the ominous rebirth of the union movement.

Driven by corporate abuses during the turn of the 20th century and rapid American industrialization, union power and influence made rapid gains. By the 1950s, union membership approached 30 percent of the total U.S. workforce.  

However, gains in workplace regulation, evolving managerial science and generally rising American prosperity rendered many of the reasons for unionization obsolete.

Union membership began a slow and steady decline that continues today. Private sector union membership currently runs about 7.6 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  

As unions were ejected from the private sector, they found fertile ground in the world of public-sector employees. With no need to show a profit, virtually no accountability and money-hungry politicians, unions were able to seize an estimated 36.8 percent of all government workers.

The percentage is higher among workers in education, training, and library occupations with a startling 38.7 percent.

However, the new union leadership is not content with the public sector. It wants a return to the mainstream of America to regain its former dominance even though there is no true need for them.

A “perfect storm” is brewing to permit union resurgence. A teetering economy, public outcry over executive compensation, increasing use of temporary workers and a labor-friendly Congress and president are giving the newly aggressive union leadership hope for renewed relevance.

The vehicle for this comeback is the Employee Free Choice Act. If it passes, unions will gain unchecked power to unionize and gain control in places they are both unneeded and unwanted.

Currently, a union can come in to a business if 50 percent of employees sign authorization cards or if a secret ballot election is won.

Under the pending legislation, an authorization vote is no longer secret, placing massive pressure on employees to authorize unionization.

Under the current process, the employer is not obligated to agree to any union proposal. Under the EFCA, binding arbitration can be called in as early as 90 days. The arbitrator will determine the terms of the collective bargaining agreement and the employer will be forced to comply.

Further, under current law, an employer can hire permanent replacements for striking workers. Under EFCA, permanent replacements are eliminated.

The EFCA also contains radical new provisions such as allowing first-line supervision to join the union, union access to facilities during organizing and permitting unions equal time in response to “captive audience” meetings.

So, if the EFCA does become law, why would employees want to join a union?  The initial reaction from most people is better wages and protected employment. However, surveys show that private sector employees merely want fair treatment, respect and a voice on the job.

This means the best way to defeat a union is simply to listen. Listening to employees and communicating corporate directions and objectives makes staff feel involved and valued.

While seemingly quite small, developing a culture of good communication can defeat a unionizing attempt.

The EFCA is clearly the mechanism by which unions intend to shake off the perception that they are an anachronism and appear to be the path to prosperity and hope. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The “union phoenix” will not result in a better America. We have seen the disaster wrought by public employee unions on the state of California.

Is that what we want? I don’t think so.

Steve Lunetta is a Santa Clarita resident. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal. “Right About Now” runs Mondays in The Signal.



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