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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

March 19, 2009 at 4:41 PM

The Employee Free Choice Act

Not surprised by anti-union screed

Imagine my (non)surprise after many years as a P-I subscriber to see, in my first issue of The Times, Bruce Ramsey’s thinly veiled anti-union screed at the top of your Opinion page [“The Employee Faux Choice Act,” editorial column, March 18].

The blissful state of labor comity for which Ramsey pretends to long is known as “right to work.” Right-to-work laws, which mandate that individual employees may opt in or out of a union, sound wonderful on their face. But these laws traditionally have been used to undermine unions economically and to make organizing and representing workers virtually impossible.

Go to any state with right-to-work laws — most of them are in the south — and compare wages and standards of living to those of any state without such laws. The Employee Free Choice Act evens the playing field, allowing people to get representation (and according to recent polling, more than 70 percent of Americans want representation) without being harassed and intimidated for months and sometimes years, which current labor law allows.

I suspect Ramsey knows all of this. Or he probably should if he is going to write on the topic.

— Chuck Van Wey, Seattle

Long-overdue reform

The Employee Free Choice Act is a long-overdue reform that will bring federal labor law into the 21st century.

To give you an idea of how unfair the current law is, over the past 30 years an entire industry has grown whose job is to advise employers on how to fight employee attempts to unionize.

When workers decide to form a union, they sign cards or petitions indicating that they want to be represented. If the employer finds out, its first response is to find the ringleaders among the employees and fire them.

Technically, this is a violation of Federal law, but as a practical matter these laws are without teeth. If a violation is proved, the remedy more often than not is a requirement that the employer post a notice saying that they will never do that again. The message to the employees is clear: Keep your mouth shut or be fired.

The fired employees have to rebuild their work lives elsewhere. Their co-workers learn that to organize is to put their jobs in danger. The employer learns that the penalty for violating the law is virtually nonexistent.

Forming a union gives workers the ability to bargain their wages, hours and conditions of employment with their employer. It is the free-market solution to the decline of the middle class. Unions give hope to American families and they create stable work forces for employers. This is the free choice that workers are seeking.

— Tracey Thompson, secretary-treasurer, Teamsters Local 117, Tukwila

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