View Full Version : The Bush Administration's war on working people

03-21-2006, 01:03 PM
Bush vs. Working People
Political Affairs magazine (http://www.politicalaffairs.net/article/articleview/2994/1/157/)

"The Bush administration continued to demonstrate its strong bias against workers' rights in 2005," states a report put out earlier this month by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU). ICFTU is one of the world's largest federations of labor unions and represents 155 million workers across the globe.

The report cataloged numerous breaches of international standards concerning freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, and child labor. It also highlighted a clear trend towards lower standards under the Bush administration.

"The credibility of the US, which takes a strong international stand on human rights issues, is severely damaged by the lack of protection for working people, especially the most vulnerable, within its own borders," said Guy Ryder, ICFTU General Secretary, adding that "this only encourages other governments to seek competitive advantage in global markets by violating fundamental workers' rights."

The report noted that while US law protects the right to organize unions, in practice, private employers are allowed to use a number of coercive tactics that "chill the right of association."

The report found that 30% of employers illegally fire workers for union-related activity. More than 9 in 10 employers faced with union activity hold closed-door "captive audience" meetings that push anti-union propaganda and pressure employees not to join. And 70% of employers in the manufacturing sector threaten to close the workplace or move it overseas if a union is organized.

Despite laws guaranteeing the right to join or organize unions, about 25 million private industry workers have been denied this basic right.

When workers file grievances with federal regulatory bodies designed to prevent employer abuses, they wait a median of 690 days for a hearing. Currently, more than 16,000 grievances are on file since 2004 waiting to be heard.

When they do finally get a hearing, working people rarely see justice. "Many employers who violate labor laws are never punished," the report found. "Even when they are, the penalties are too weak to deter them from doing it again."

Even worse, since Bush has been in office and has appointed anti-union Republicans to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the federal agency created to mediate labor disputes and prevent abuses, its rulings on labor grievances have more often gone against workers, even when clear violations of law occurred. The report noted some key examples. When pro-union workers at Stanadyne Automotive charged the managers with implicitly threatening to close the plant by stating that other plants owned by the company had closed in retaliation against unions, the right-wing dominated NLRB ruled that such phrasing did not constitute a threat.

When workers at Flying Foods complained that their employer showed new hires an anti-union film, despite the fact the union had already won a negotiated contract, the NLRB dismissed their complaint.

The NLRB also seems poised to weaken rules governing the status of unions that were voluntarily recognized by the employer without a vote. Auto parts manufacturers Dana Corp. and Teledyne want to weaken these rules in order to decertify existing unions at their plants.

Numerous other examples of violations of workers' rights are noted. The report concludes that under lax enforcement, and even outright hostility by Bush administration officials, employers have become more aggressive in their anti-union activities without fear of punishment, even when they break the law.

The Bush administration and the NLRB have also blocked or overturned the rights of federal and other public workers to collectively bargain contracts. The report found that as many as 40% of public workers currently have no say in their wages, work conditions, health benefits, safety regulations or other aspects of their work.

"An entire industry," the report states, "exists in the United States to defeat union organizing drives through coercion and intimidation." Anti-union campaigns are widely used by employers in the case of organizing, and 82% of the employers hire union-busting consultants to stop workers from joining unions.

Furthermore, undocumented migrant workers are discriminated against when it comes to legal entitlements in the case of unfair labor practices. The US Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that undocumented workers are neither entitled to back pay as a remedy for unfair labor practices nor to reinstatement. This ruling essentially legalized abuse of undocumented workers by employers.

Despite the fact that the US has ratified international conventions against child labor, it remains a problem, especially in the agriculture sector. Few regulations on work conditions in agricultural allow children to work long hours in the fields and to be exposed to dangerous pesticides and equipment, the report found. Additionally, new labor regulations pushed by the Bush administration and Republican Congress have reduced the number of inspections for the enforcement of child labor laws. Weakened regulations have also worsened safety conditions for younger workers "by lowering the minimum age for handling dangerous operations, such as operating fryers and grills in fast food restaurants and the loading of paper balers and compactors."

The report also pointed out that, despite the existence of equal opportunity legislation, women earn on average considerably less than men do. Income gaps and hiring and promotion discrimination by race and ethnicity persist as well. Sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination account for a large percentage of employee lawsuits.

Why do Bush and the Republicans have such a strong bias against working families? Clearly, it is because they are deep in the hip pockets of their corporate sponsors who value profit above all else, and certainly above the needs of the working people who make their profits possible.