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Red States Opposing Employee Free Choice Act Need It Most

June 20, 2007

In Washington this week, the Senate will take up the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). Passed by the House 241-185 in March, EFCA would make it much easier for unions to organize. Predictably, red state Republican Senators backed by an alliance of business groups led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will likely prevent the measure from coming to a vote. Which is too bad. After all, from wages and benefits to job opportunities and collective bargaining rights, it is red state workers who need EFCA most.
First a little background. The decline of the American manufacturing sector combined with increased intimidation from employers have shriveled the unionized workforce to 9% (down from its 1950's high of 30%). The Employee Free Choice Act, as the Center for American Progress details, was designed to help American workers organize to improve stagnant wages and protect diminishing health and pension benefits in an ever more hostile bargaining environment:

"Under current law, an employer can insist on a secret-ballot election," even after a majority of employees express their desire to organize. The proposed law "would give employees at a workplace the right to unionize as soon as a majority signed cards saying they wanted to do so"...Employees "often feel intimidated by their employers during unionization drives and so are fearful of losing their jobs." Employers illegally fire employees for union activity in "more than one-quarter of all organizing efforts." Approximately half of employers illegally threaten to close or relocate the business if workers elect to form a union.

And as Perrspectives has previously detailed, working conditions and wages are worst in precisely those red states that elected George W. Bush.
For example, a December 2005 report by the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts showed that Americans' working conditions in general closely follow the 2004 electoral map. The report's Work Environment Index (WEI) rated the quality of Americans' working lives by a weighting of three factors: job opportunities, job quality, and job fairness. The top five states were Delaware, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Vermont and Iowa, the bottom five were South Carolina, Utah, Arkansas Texas and Louisiana.

There are no surprises among the worst performing states in the Work Environment Index. Virtually all below the Mason-Dixon line, the WEI laggards feature dismal pay and an outwardly hostile environment towards union organizing, workers' rights and collective bargaining. Red America is the home of the so-called Right-to-Work (RTW) states. These "right to work" states prohibit workers from being required to join a trade union as a condition of employment. A leader in the Right-to-Work movement, Bush's home state of Texas was ranked 50th, with the percentage of workers with health and pension benefits running a full 10% below the top WEI performers:

But working conditions aren't the only area where denizens of the Republican heartland suffer relative to their blue state brethren. As Perrspectives detailed in January, minimum wage levels also vary significantly from state to state. Unsurprisingly, many of the "bluest" states lead the way in exceeding both the previous ($5.15 an hour) and recently passed ($7.25) federal requirements, with Washington, Oregon, California, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut mandating wages as high as $7.93. Only one of the 21 states (New Hampshire) mired at $5.15 an hour did not vote for George W. Bush in 2004.

But in the debate over the Employee Free Choice Act, the woes of red state workers will have no impact on their elected representatives. President Bush, of course has vowed to veto the bill. The Senate Republican Conference touts an op-ed piece by Alabama Senator Richard Shelby, which blasts EFCA while lauding his state's dismal economic performance. Shelby comically proclaims "Alabama workers have partnered with business and together they have created a vibrant economy."
And to think his fellow Republican Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called the bill "Orwellian."

8 comments on “Red States Opposing Employee Free Choice Act Need It Most”

  1. You're reading this all wrong. The South continues to attract jobs and investment because it isn't weighed down by unions and their ridiculous rules. This bill would be a disaster for the Sun Belt states.

  2. As a life-long red stater, I can attest to the need for the Employee Free Choice Act. Weak unions have led to unsafe working conditions and low pay. Companies do not hestiate to use intimidation tactics to prevent workers from organizing. We need to restore the right to collective bargaining in this country which has been eroded across the nation in the past 25 years or so.

  3. Make sure you sugar-coat this as much as possible!
    This bill is nothing more than a democrat promise to the unions that helped get them elected. It makes it easier for your socialist-esque labor unions to strong-arm their way in to help continue to destroy business like they have in the auto industry.
    This is simply a way for union reps to use peer pressure to get people to sign a petition that would go in to effect WITHOUT A VOTE if they get more than 50% of people in the place of business to sign a petition asking for a vote. That's not choice, that's force. The number one employer in my red-state county is non-union and HUGE. Why you ask? It's simple: not having to bow to greedy union demands allows them to be responsive to their workforce, not a national crime syndicate like the AFL-CIO or UAW.

  4. The balance of power is weighted far too heavily in favor of business against unions. Many workers in our red "right to work" states would like to join unions but fear for their jobs. We have far too many companies like Walmart who will close a store rather than allow it to go union.
    Organized labor played a major role in expanding the middle class in America. Union strength helped to offset the influence of big business.
    Our U.S. auto industry is in trouble because of a seriously flawed health care system and "free trade" policies. Labor has cooperated with efforts to save what is left of the American automobile production. Non-union manufacturing jobs in the "right to work" states have folded up and left the country too.

  5. Well, I guess saying that unions have "cooperated" is a matter of opinion. Last I heard, GM had rooms full of union workers drawing full pay for jobs that no longer exists as long as they show up and sit there for 8 hours.
    Anyone defending labor unions always acts like there are no other safety nets in place for the "working man". It's almost as if you believe that as soon as we get rid of the business crippling extremist union demands that big bad business will revert back to $0.05/hr jobs and whipping the people on the assembly lines. Modern corporations are accountable in about 8 million more ways that they used to be - and no business wants to cheat their employees.
    The issue here is really THIS BILL. This bill makes it legal for a group of 5 or 6 wanna-be union guys to walk around the floor of the factory and strong-arm people into "just sign the petition so we can vote on it" and with enough pressure, they'll get enough signatures that the union can move in WITHOUT A VOTE. That's nothing more than legalized coercion.
    You've been mislead.

  6. If you have a problem with secret ballot elections then work to fix the elections, don't eliminate them. If W announced tomorrow that all elections from now on would be public votes there would be an outcry, and there should be. The bill which is being proposed is exactly the same thing.

  7. This act does NOT eliminate the ballot. If gives the option of the ballot OR majority sign up. The members can still call for a ballot if they wish. This bill should pass to level the playing field.

  8. It's because fo the unions AFL CIO and UAW that American jobs are now in China and Mexico with the fed-up US manufacturers.
    Decent pay and decent treatment is one thing, but greedy group that sits on the union board and does NOTHING but complain and rake in paychecks is evil and wrong.
    The Unions detroyed America!


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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