Spinning irony

“This legislation is monumental,” Ben Carter, the president of the Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce, wrote in a partisan-tinged letter to the editor published in The News Virginian last week, in which he recited the GOP talking points on the Employee Free Choice Act, legislation making its way through Congress that would put into effect safeguards for people who eschew fancy suits for blue collars and might want to organize to try to improve their pay and benefits.

“It would change the way union elections are conducted at worksites by eliminating an employee’s ability to decide whether to join a union through a private ballot election,” Carter wrote. “Instead, the EFCA would allow a simple ‘card check’ to represent the true intent of the employees. The problem with that is, it opens the process to intimidation, threats and badgering. Just imagine the problems if this concept were adopted in our democratic elections.”

“‘Card check’ elections are simply a bad idea. The right to a private ballot is a cornerstone of our democracy. It is a right we all exercise in our daily lives,” Carter concluded his letter.

I have to give credit where credit is due – not to Carter, who is simply regurgitating what the suits are being fed by their ideological allies in the business wing of the Republican Party, but to those on the far right for their savvy in painting the Employee Free Choice Act as a threat to our democratic way of life.

Kudos, seriously. I mean, it ain’t at all what the legislation is about, but A for effort.

Here is what the Employee Free Choice Act would actually do. Ready? Ahem. It would mandate the recognition of a union under federal law when a majority of employees have signed authorizations designating the union as their bargaining representative. And in line with the recognition, a process would be triggered automatically in which the National Labor Relations Board would be empowered to develop model authorization language and procedures for establishing the validity of signed authorizations.

And this is controversial – why, again?

Let’s go back to what Carter had to say in his letter. “The problem with it is, it opens the process to intimidation, threats and badgering.” No, the problem is that the process is already rife with intimidation, threats and badgering – from corporate types who use existing federal law to intimidate, threaten and badger workers into not organizing.

I think it’s probably obvious why this is meeting with such stiff resistance from the suits. The system works for their benefit now. Oh, sure, they’re going to yammer ’til the cows come home about what’s good for their bottom lines is what’s good for business, but think about how a macroeconomy actually works. It’s not the rich getting richer and the middle class getting squeezed that primes the pump. It’s the middle class doing well that raises the boat for all of us, including the rich.

That said, I’m all for a free exchange of ideas on this one. I rather wish my chamber of commerce would take the same approach. Did I forget to mention that earlier – that Augusta Free Press Publishing, our parent company, is involved in our local chamber of commerce? Then I likely also failed to mention that I don’t recall anyone from the chamber ever asking me or other members our thoughts on taking a public stand on the Employee Free Choice Act.

I thought at first that it was ironic maybe that our chamber president would write a letter complaining about legislation that he views as putting the democratic process that we all hold so near and dear at risk without having put the matter to my knowledge to any kind of democratic vote amongst the membership.

But on reflection, no, it’s not irony. It’s the way some people like to do business.

 

– Column by Chris Graham


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