There is a bill in the Senate that will help working people in all of Oregon, but only one of our senators supports it. Sen. Gordon Smith opposes the Employee Free Choice Act, which protects workers across Oregon from illegal employer abuses.
Right now, if a worker tries to form a union in their workplace, there is a one in five chance that they will be illegally fired. It is likely that over nine out of every 10 of their co-workers will be forced to have one-on-one meetings with their supervisors to convince them to oppose the union.
The punishments for these events are so small that they don't deter illegal actions. The Employee Free Choice Act would increase the punishment for breaking labor laws so that they serve as a deterrent.
Because so many people are intimidated by their employers and are afraid of being illegally fired if they support a union, the longer a union drive lasts the more the support for the union drops. Employers that will scare their workers like this run workplaces where a union is needed the most. Unfortunately, they are often workplaces where it is hardest to form a union. There is another option.
There are two ways to form a union. Either a majority of workers can sign up to be in the union, or everyone at the workplace can vote on whether or not to join the union. Right now, employers choose how a union can be formed.
The Employee Free Choice Act puts the choice back in the workers' hands.
If the majority of workers sign up to be in the union, a union is formed. But if they want to hold an election, that is allowed too. People who work at a company should decide what is best for them and their workplace.
Half of people who don't have a union say they would join one tomorrow if given the chance. Current labor laws aren't strong enough to ensure that they have a fair chance, though.
The Employee Free Choice Act is important for workers in Astoria and in all of Oregon. We must make sure Sen. Smith knows that we need the Employee Free Choice Act so that all of Oregon's working people can decide for themselves whether or not to join a union, free from intimidation, coercion, and the fear of losing their jobs.
President, Clatsop & Tillamook Central Labor Council