We Got Your Back sign now

July 5th, 2005 is the 70th anniversary of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's signing of the National Labor Relations Act into law.

"Employees shall have the right to...form...labor organizations...to bargain collectively...[and employers may not] interfere with...the exercise of...this right." -- National Labor Relations Act (1935)

The reality, however, is the following:

"Our findings are disturbing, to say the least. Loophole-ridden laws, paralyzing delays, and feeble enforcement have led to a culture of impunity in many areas of U.S. labor law and practice. Legal obstacles tilt the playing field so steeply against workers' freedom of association that the United States is in violation of international human rights standards for workers."
-- Ken Roth, Executive Director, Human Rights Watch

Employers launch relentless and often brutal attacks when workers try to form unions:

* A quarter of employers illegally fire workers for supporting a union.

* More than three-quarters of employers use workers' own supervisors to pressure workers in one-on-one meetings.

* Many employers have security guards closely follow union supporters on the job.

* Half of employers threaten to shut down.

* They even threaten to reduce workers' pay and benefits if they choose a union.

* Workers who join unions earn an average of 26 percent more than workers who don't, and more than two-thirds of union members have guaranteed defined-benefit pensions, compared with less than one-fifth of nonunion workers.

* Some 86 percent of union members in private industry receive employer-provided health care benefits, compared with only 51 percent of nonunion workers. Unions are unquestionably the most effective anti-poverty program our nation can pursue.

[from AFLCIO.org/aboutunions/voiceatwork/upload/brovaw2.pdf]

Every 23 minutes, a worker suffers retaliation just because they supported a union at work.

U.S. employers have fired or otherwise retaliated against more than 10,000 workers so far this year for demonstrating support for a union.

Government figures show that 23,000 U.S. workers are dismissed or discriminated against on the job each year for exercising their legal rights to form or join a union.

[from AmericanRightsatWork.org]

"Some 57 million nonunion workers in the United States say they would form a union tomorrow if given the chance, according to new poll conducted in February by Peter D. Hart and Associates. For many of them, especially women and people of color, having a union is often the difference between living in or out of poverty. Yet the truth is that a sophisticated and systematic effort to deny workers their basic freedom of association is rampant in this country.

Employers and antiunion consultants have effectively thwarted the intent and efficacy of the law that supposedly guarantees workers the freedom to form unions, a human right protected by the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized by the US government thirteen years earlier in the National Labor Relations Act."

["Fighting for Unions" by Stewart Acuff

Some of us here in Dutchess County are trying to do something about this.

Our County Legislature's Minority Leader, Roger Higgins, and Assistant Minority Leader, Sandra Goldberg, have agreed to co-sponsor with County Legislator Joel Tyner the resolution he submitted last August calling on our County Legislature to push Congress to sign bipartisan legislation into law that would protect the right of workers here in our county and across our country to have the protection of unions in their workplaces if they wish.

[Note-- thanks as well to Vicky Perry, Democratic candidate for County Legislator for Red Hook, for her efforts on this issue, too.]

The bipartisan legislation is the Employee Free Choice Act, introduced by Senator Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, and Representatives Peter King, Republican of New York, and George Miller, Democrat of California last year (wording of resolution is just a bit below).

If workers right here in our county want the protection of a union in their workplace, they should be able to have that protection-- without being fired or retaliated against, as happens so often across the U.S.

Wouldn't if be nice if people in positions of power in our county (like those in county government) made clear to workers in our county that we would stand up for them and their rights on the job to have unions if they wish?

This is what this petition, and our walk on July 5th from the Fishkill Wal-Mart to the FDR site in Hyde Park is all about.

As David Bonior of American Rights at Work says, "This isn't happening to strangers-- these are our nurses, school bus drivers, and favorite grocery store clerks."

It's time now, more than ever, for as many of us as possible from the grass-roots to push for passage in Congress of the Employee Free Choice Act-- "a critical first step in stemming the tide of workers' rights violations," as American Rights at Work state.

Tyner, Perry, Higgins, and Goldberg urge all county residents to call Congress at (888) 355-3588 and the White House at (800) 321-8268 on this.

County residents are also urged to contact our County Legislature at 486-2100, [email protected], or [email protected] to ask them to pass this resolution below to push Congress on this issue.


More information:

Joel Tyner
County Legislator
324 Browns Pond Road
Staatsburg, NY 12580
[email protected]
Interactive blog at MidHudsonAlliance.com


Legislator Tyner submitted this resolution last August 4th asking our County Legislature to push Congress on this issue-- as with so many other common-sense measures, G.O.P. legislators have thus far refused to lift a finger to help on this one, unfortunately:


WHEREAS, half of the workers across the country would form a union today if they had the chance, according to an independent, nationally respected polling firm; this means there are a sizable number right here in Dutchess County who would do this if they could, and

WHEREAS, unfortunately at times employers harass, coerce, intimidate, and even fire workers to keep them from exercising their freedom to form a union; according to Cornell University research, actually one-quarter of employers illegally fire at least one worker during private-sector union organizing campaigns, and

WHEREAS, this is wrong, the current system for protecting these workers' rights is broken, and this human rights crisis should be ended, and

WHEREAS, the bipartisan Employee Free Choice Act recently introduced in Congress (H.R.3619 and S.1925) by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) would solve this problem; it would fix the broken processes through which workers form unions, making union protections and benefits more widely available to more working families, and therefore so be it

RESOLVED, that the Dutchess County Legislature will hold an evening public hearing on this issue this year asking for county residents to come forward and share their experiences on this matter, if they so choose, and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Dutchess County Legislature hereby asks Congress to pass and the President to sign into law the bipartisan Employee Free Choice Act (H.R.3619 and S.1925) to protect the human right of every worker here in our county and across the country to freely form or join a union without harassment or intimidation from their employer, and be it further

RESOLVED, that a copy of this resolution be forwarded to County Executive William Steinhaus, Representative Sue Kelly, Representative John Sweeney, Representative Maurice Hinchey, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Senator Charles Schumer, and President George W. Bush.


This below from an article posted to CommonDreams June 15th:

["Pro-Worker Legislation Bolstered by New Report" by Abid Aslam
http://www.commondreams.org/headlines05/0615-02.htm ]

"The bill, introduced in Congress this year by Senator Edward Kennedy,
a Massachusetts Democrat, and Representatives Peter King, Republican
of New York, and George Miller, Democrat of California, strengthens
protections for workers during union representation drives, toughens
penalties for employers who violate workers' rights, and offers
mediation so that employers and unions reach contracts within a
reasonable period of time.

The 13-million-member AFL-CIO labor federation also supports the
measure, which would require employers to recognize a union if a
majority of workers signed cards authorizing union representation...

Under current rules, U.S. workers vote on whether to unionize by
following procedures spelled out and administered by the National
Labor Relations Board.

U.S. unions long have confronted falling membership despite public
sympathy. They represent only about nine percent of America's private
sector workers, down from 38 percent in the 1950s, according to the

Labor groups have sought ways around the formal procedures, saying
these serve to stack the deck against unions.

One strategy being pushed in earnest since 2003, when the AFL-CIO
launched a nationwide ''Voice at Work'' organizing campaign, is to
get companies to recognize unions if enough of their workers sign
union cards. The United Auto Workers (UAW) used this strategy to
recruit new members in the largely non-union auto supplier industry.

The UAW and other unions also have used so-called neutrality
agreements, under which employers agree not to block organizing

Lafer's report says the procedures fall short of basic U.S.
democratic standards and the yardsticks against which the U.S.
government determines whether elections in foreign countries are
''free and fair.''

These include ''genuine competition between parties and equal access to voters''; free speech for both candidates and voters; protecting voters from economic coercion; and ''timely implementation of the voters' will.''

According to the report, U.S. employers freely distribute anti-union
literature while workers are restricted from openly circulating
pro-union literature; employers deny pro-union campaigners essential
employee information to which bosses nevertheless enjoy access; and
employers and supervisors coerce workers with actual or threatened
grants or withdrawals of privileges based upon employees' position on
the union.

Additionally, Lafer says, existing labor law allows employers to use
lengthy appeals to, in effect, indefinitely block recognition of a
union in cases where organizing drives result in a pro-union vote

From a constitutional perspective, Lafer concludes, the existing
system ''is profoundly broken--and profoundly undemocratic. Whatever
path labor law reform may take, it must begin with this


Franklin Roosevelt's Statement on the National Labor Relations Act (The Wagner Act) July 5, 1935

"...it should serve as an important step toward the achievement of just and peaceful labor relations in industry."

This Act defines, as a part of our substantive law, the right of self-organization of employees in industry for the purpose of collective bargaining, and provides methods by which the Government can safeguard that legal right. It establishes a National Labor Relations Board to hear and determine cases in which it is charged that this legal right is abridged or denied, and to hold fair elections to ascertain who are the chosen representatives of employees.

A better relationship between labor and management is the high purpose of this Act. By assuring the employees the right of collective bargaining it fosters the development of the employment contract on a sound and equitable basis. By providing an orderly procedure for determining who is entitled to represent the employees, it aims to remove one of the chief causes of wasteful economic strife. By preventing practices which tend to destroy the independence of labor, it seeks, for every worker within its scope, that freedom of choice and action which is justly his.

The National Labor Relations Board will be an independent quasi-judicial body. It should be clearly understood that it will not act as mediator or conciliator in labor disputes. The function of mediation remains, under this Act, the duty of the Secretary of Labor and of the Conciliation Service of the Department of Labor. It is important that the judicial function and the mediation function should not be confused. Compromise, the essence of mediation, has no place in the interpretation and enforcement of the law.

This Act, defining rights, the enforcement of which is recognized by the Congress to be necessary as an act of both common justice and economic advance, must not be misinterpreted. It may eventually eliminate one major cause of labor disputes, but it will not stop all labor disputes. It does not cover all industry and labor, but is applicable only when violation of the legal right of independent self-organization would burden or obstruct interstate commerce. Accepted by management, labor and the public with a sense of sober responsibility and of willing cooperation, however, it should serve as an important step toward the achievement of just and peaceful labor relations in industry.


Eleanor Roosevelt was no slouch on this issue either, of course-- recall section 4 of article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (which she drafted)-- from UN.org/Overview/rights.html: "Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests"...

National Labor Relations Act

The National Labor Relations Act, also known as the Wagner Act, passed through Congress in the summer of 1935 and became one of the most important legacies of the New Deal. Reversing years of federal opposition to organized labor, the statute guaranteed the right of employees to organize, form unions, and bargain collectively with their employers. It assured that workers would have a choice on whether to belong to a union or not, and promoted collective bargaining as the major way to insure peaceful industry-labor relations. The act also created a new National Labor Relations Board to arbitrate deadlocked labor-management disputes, guarantee democratic union elections, and penalize unfair labor practices by employers. The law applied to all employers involved in interstate commerce other than airlines, railroads, agriculture, and government.

The act contributed to a dramatic surge in union membership and made labor a force to be reckoned with both politically and economically. Women benefitted from this shift as well and by the end of the 1930s, 800,000 women belonged to unions, a threefold increase over 1929.

ER was an outspoken advocate for labor and a champion of the Wagner Act. She defended it in her columns, press conferences, and lecture tours. In 1947, when the Taft-Hartley Act was passed, it successfully killed the NLRB and replaced it with a new, five-member board whose mandate was of far less value to labor than that of its predecessor. ER denounced Taft-Hartley and the conservatives seeking to undo the New Deal's pro-labor policies. In the September 1, 1950 issue of The Advance (the newspaper of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America), ER stated that "instead of clamping down on the labor movement, Americans 'should be extremely grateful to unions.'"


From the NYS AFL-CIO website [NYSAFLCIO.org] itself...

[click on url above, then yellow box at right]

Act to Protect the Freedom to Choose a Union

Support the Employee Free Choice Act

Some 42 million U.S. workers say they would join a union tomorrow if
they could. But when workers try to gain a voice on the job by
forming a union, employers respond with intimidation, harassment and
retaliation. And federal law does not address this injustice.

The Employee Free Choice Act would ensure that when a majority of
employees in a workplace decide to form a union, they can do so
without the debilitating obstacles employers now use to block their
free choice.

Specifically, the Employee Free Choice Act would strengthen
protections for workers' freedom to form unions by:

* Requiring employers to recognize a union after workers sign
cards authorizing union representation,

* Providing for mediation and arbitration of first-contract disputes,

* Authorizing stronger penalties for violations of the rights
of workers seeking to form unions and reach first contracts.

I know how important it is for workers to be able to freely form
unions to secure a decent standard of living, affordable health
insurance and safe jobs. For our democracy to work, it is essential
that workers have a voice in our workplaces, communities and in our
nation's civic and political life.

Among the basic human rights guaranteed by the U.S. and international
law is the right to form and join trade unions. I am outraged that
today in America when workers try to form unions they are routinely
fired, threatened and intimidated. In fact, workers who support the
union are fired in 25 percent of the private-sector union election
campaigns. We must have strong laws to support workers' freedom to
form unions.

What's At Stake?

Summary of Employee Free Choice Act S. 1925/H.R. 3619

The sponsors of the Employee Free Choice Act plan to introduce it
again as bipartisan legislation in the 109th Congress (new bill
numbers will be assigned after the act is introduced to Congress).
The Employee Free Choice Act originally was introduced on Nov. 21, 2003, by U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy (S. 1925) and U.S. Rep. George Miller (H.R. 3619).

1. Certification on the Basis of Signed Authorizations

Provides for certification of a union as the bargaining
representative if the National Labor Relations Board finds that a
majority of employees in an appropriate unit has signed
authorizations designating the union as its bargaining
representative. Requires the board to develop model authorization
language and procedures for establishing the authenticity of signed

2. First-Contract Mediation and Arbitration

Provides that if an employer and a union are engaged in bargaining
for their first contract and are unable to reach agreement within 90
days, either party may refer the dispute to the Federal Mediation and
Conciliation Service (FMCS) for mediation. If the FMCS has been
unable to bring the parties to agreement after 30 days of mediation,
the dispute will be referred to arbitration and the results of the
arbitration shall be binding on the parties for two years. Time
limits may be extended by mutual agreement of the parties.

3. Stronger Penalties for Violations While Employees Are Attempting
to Organize or Obtain a First Contract

Makes the following new provisions applicable to violations of the
National Labor Relations Act committed by employers against employees during any period while employees are attempting to organize a union or negotiate a first contract with the employer:

a. Mandatory Applications for Injunctions: Provides that just as the
NLRB is required to seek a federal court injunction against a union
whenever there is reasonable cause to believe the union has violated
the secondary boycott prohibitions in the act, the NLRB must seek a
federal court injunction against an employer whenever there is
reasonable cause to believe the employer has discharged or
discriminated against employees, threatened to discharge or
discriminate against employees or engaged in conduct that
significantly interferes with employee rights during an organizing or
first contract drive. Authorizes the courts to grant temporary
restraining orders or other appropriate injunctive relief.

b. Treble Back Pay: Increases the amount an employer is required to
pay when an employee is discharged or discriminated against during an organizing campaign or first contract drive to three times back pay.

c. Civil Penalties: Provides for civil fines of up to $20,000 per
violation against employers found to have willfully or repeatedly
violated employees' rights during an organizing campaign or first
contract drive.

This fact sheet has been prepared by the AFL-CIO. For more
information regarding the Employee Free Choice Act, please contact
the AFL-CIO Legislation Department at 202-637-5057.


From the folks at American Rights at Work...

"Free and Fair: How Labor Law Fails U.S. Democratic Election Standards"

[based on a report by Gordon Lafer, Ph.D., University of Oregon last month]

Recent debates on labor law reform have focused on how we best bring elections for union representation in line with the norms of U.S.
democracy. One side argues that the current National Labor Relations
Board system must restrict all forms of union recognition to the
process of a secret ballot to safeguard democracy. Others assert
that the secret ballot is not enough to guarantee a free and fair

American Rights at Work commissioned University of Oregon political
scientist Gordon Lafer to investigate how current union election
procedures measure up to U.S. democratic standards. Lafer engaged in a thorough examination of the political philosophy and published
works of the founders, the historical development of electoral law
and jurisprudence, and current statutes and regulations that define
"free and fair" elections.

Lafer concludes that union representation elections fall alarmingly
short of living up to the most fundamental tenets of democracy. The
inclusion of a secret ballot does not change the fact that the
process as a whole is fundamentally broken and unfair.

Democratic Elections Standards:

How Do Union Representation Elections Measure Up?

Equal Access to the Media:
Distribution of Competing Viewpoints to Create an Informed Electorate

Employees are restricted from openly disseminating information: In elections for union representation, employers have monopoly control of media within the workplace. They can distribute anti-union information anywhere and at anytime, while pro-union workers are restricted to posting literature in the break area during break time. Unions are restricted to distributing material off-site.

Freedom of Speech:
Broad Debate of Public Issues

Employees are restricted from openly expressing their
opinions: Employers are allowed to enforce a total ban on employees
discussing the proposed union outside of the break room. Yet
employers enjoy unfettered communication?subjecting employees to
mandatory staff meetings and one-on-one meetings with supervisors,
often with the intent of intimidating those suspected of supporting
union formation. Labor law provides no equal opportunities for
pro-union workers to respond or present alternative viewpoints.

Equal Access to Voters:
Promoting Balanced Competition & a Level Playing Field

Employers have greater access to voters: Although pro-union
workers and union organizers are permitted to contact workers outside
of the workplace, such communication is exceedingly difficult to
arrange. Employers have unilateral access to employees within the
workplace, and can easily contact them at home. While employers may freely distribute a steady stream of anti-union correspondence
through the mail, pro-union workers lack access to employee address
information until they can document that 30\% of the workforce wants a
union. Even then, employers can legally provide lists with
incomplete information, such as missing zip codes and telephone and
apartment numbers.

Voter Coercion:
Restricting Undue Influence

Employees are not protected against economic coercion:
Employers and their supervisory personnel exercise considerable
economic leverage over workers, including the discretion to assign
and change work duties, grant raises and promotions, and control work schedules. Existing statutes prohibit explicit threats to and
bribery of employees. But this leaves ample room for employers to
stop short of that threshold and still conduct activities designed to
thwart union recognition. Workers are subjected to thinly-veiled
threats in the form of 'predictions' that choosing to form a union
may lead the company to close the worksite, lose business and make
cutbacks. Employers are also free to make statements like "a union
is a declaration of disloyalty to me personally and an affront to
everything the company stands for."

Timely Implementation of the Voters' Will:
A Binding System of Regular Elections & Fixed Terms of Office

Open-Ended Delays: In union representation elections workers
can face infinite delays in the implementation of election results.
Often times these lengthy delays are a result of employers taking
full advantage of permissive election guidelines. These guidelines
not only allow the appeals process to drag on for years, but mandate
that the workplace be governed as if employees voted against
organizing for the duration of the appeals process.

Campaign Finance Regulation:
Promoting a Competitive Environment & a Level Playing Field

Virtually no regulation of election spending: In union
representation elections, anti-union employers have access to
resources that few unions can ever hope to match, such as
on-the-clock meetings, the use of company property and equipment, and converting supervisors to anti-union campaign staff. In addition,
U.S. labor law provides no financial limitation and alarmingly little
in the way of reporting requirements for expenditures during the
course of a union recognition


Also see:

"Protecting the Right to Unionize"
by Robert J. Haynes and Kathleen A. Casavant [12/8/2003]


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Vicky HaleBy:
Petition target:
President Bush, Congress, and the Dutchess County Legislature


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