Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

Please note I have a new phone number...


Alan Maki

Alan Maki
Doing research at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

A program for real change...


What we need is a "21st Century Full Employment Act for Peace and Prosperity" which would make it a mandatory requirement that the president and Congress attain and maintain full employment.

"Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens"

- Ben Franklin

Let's talk...

Let's talk...

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Employee Free Choice Act isn't misleading, but Sen. Coleman's argument is

Employee Free Choice Act isn't misleading, but Sen. Coleman's argument is



Article Last Updated: 06/27/2007 06:56:06 PM CDT

There are, undoubtedly, a few things that we can all agree on these days. We all want to work hard and to support our families. We all want our kids to do better than we did. We all want a little piece of the American Dream.

And for most Minnesotans, that means having a good job that supports our families, offers access to affordable health care, and gives us the promise of a secure retirement.

Too many hard-working Minnesotans today are juggling two and three jobs just to make ends meet. They can't afford health insurance for their families, and they're having a hard time thinking about retirement, much less saving for it.

They're bone-tired, they want a fair reward for their hard work and they are interested in working together to improve their jobs and their lives. Not surprisingly, a recent survey conducted for the AFL-CIO found that 60 million workers would "join a union today" if they could.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that full-time wage and salary workers who were union members had median weekly earnings of $833 in 2006, compared with a median of $642 for wage and salary workers who were not represented by a union.

Unfortunately, it is pretty tough to form a union in today's workplaces. On average, every 23 minutes in this country, a worker is fired or discriminated against for his or her support of a union. A law that passed the U.S. House several months ago, the Employee Free Choice Act, would have allowed working people the freedom to form a union without the threat of termination or intimidation on the job.

This week, Sen. Norm Coleman voted against that law.

Analysts, from U of M Professor Emeritus Richard Levins to broadcaster Lou Dobbs, have said the Employee Free Choice Act is one way to start rebuilding America's weakened middle class. And Coleman voted against it.

He outlined the reasons for his vote in Tuesday's Pioneer Press, saying that he opposes the act in order to "protect workers' right to secret ballot elections."

Whoops. Those rights are safe under the Employee Free Choice Act. In fact, in April a group of union members met with a staffer in the senator's St. Paul office to explain that.

The Employee Free Choice Act does not deny workers the right to a unionizing election - it simply stops employers from forcing one. It does nothing to change the law that if one-third of workers want a National Labor Relations Board election at their workplace, they can still ask the federal government to hold one.

Nowhere in the bill does it repeal or restrict the provision of the National Labor Relations Act that workers now use to petition for a secret-ballot election - Section 9(c)(1)(A). Workers could continue to file an "RC petition" to request a secret-ballot election supervised by the National Labor Relations Board, just as they do now.

The senator knew - or at the very least had the opportunity to know -- that the Employee Free Choice Act would not limit secret ballot union elections long before he voted against the pro-worker bill Tuesday. Working Minnesotans deserve better.

Brad A. Slawson Jr. is chair of Change to Win Minnesota (CtW), an affiliation of unions. Ray Waldron is president of the Minnesota AFL-CIO.

My response:

Brad Slawson and Ray Waldron should know about "misleading;" they have been misleading working people for years.

The "Employee Free Choice Act" will have little affect on workers in Minnesota until "at will hiring, at will firing" is repealed; Slawson and Waldron ignore this little fact because their friends in the MN DFL might get upset if they bring it up.

So far, neither Waldron nor Slawson has asked their friends in the MN DFL Legislative Caucus to repeal this hideous "at will hiring, at will firing" law. In fact, when I made a motion at the last two state conventions of the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party to support repeal of "at will hiring, at will firing" Waldron "organized" his members to vote "no." This was the most organizing I have ever seen out of Waldron and it really stressed, and stretched, his organizing talent; so much so he hasn't engaged in any organizing activity since.

Reading Slawson and Waldron talking about union organizing would in itself be a big fat joke if not so sad... as thousands of Minnesotans are suffering as they point out, even if hypocritically so on their part.

Both Slawson and Waldron have sat in silence as more than 20,000 of their brothers and sisters continue to go to work in smoke-filled casinos at poverty wages without any rights what-so-ever under state, federal, or tribal labor laws at poverty wages under the most atrocious and Draconian working conditions without any voice at work.

As long as this many workers are employed under such conditions they are a club over the heads of all workers in Minnesota... driving wages down and thwarting union organizing drives in other industries while making contract negotiations more difficult, and enforcing the negotiated contracts even harder.

Furthermore, Mr. Slawson's members are working--- at this very moment--- under terms of illegal "sweetheart" contracts on both the Grand Casino in Hinkley and Black Bear Casino south of Duluth... not to mention the Island Casino near Escanaba, Michigan and the huge new casino being built in Petoskey, Michigan... Mr. Slawson has agreed to not organizing casino workers in return for his members getting work on construction on these casinos. Not only this, Mr. Slawson has agreed to the most outlandish method of enforcing health and safety on these casino construction sites... he has placed management in charge of health and safety inspections instead of state and federal inspectors.

The only union contracts Waldron and Slawson are capable of negotiating are crooked and corrupt sweetheart contracts; many of the contracts covering their workers provide nothing more than poverty wages...

"Employee Free Choice" might help some workers organize but not as long as these two gentlemen head up the union movement in Minnesota where "at will hiring, at will firing" is the law.

By the way... "Employee Free Choice" is just like other labor laws as far as casino workers are concerned... it won't help these 20,000 Minnesotans at all... of course, this is of no concern to Slawson or Waldron who are more interested in making an attack on Coleman than on organizing workers. Perhaps Cerisi will provide the same kind of loyalty to working people as that shown by DFL'er Senator Metzen and his committee when it came to legislation to save the Ford Plant... again, Slawson and Waldron were silent as Ford began building its new Ranger trucks in Thailand under the watchful eye of Senator Dayton... and Amy "Republican Lite" Klobuchar has been silent. Neither Waldron or Slawson have come out in support of the only way of saving 2,000 union jobs at the Ford Twin Cities Plant... did either of these gentleman ever take the time to consider the tremendous organizing effort over many years that went into organizing this Plant? Does either gentleman take the time to consider how much resources it will gobble up from member dues to organize 2,000 workers in another industry or workplace/s--- even with the "Employee Free Choice Act?"

As for Slawson and Waldron being concerned about workers' health care, again, give me another break. If either Slawson or Waldron had one iota of concern for what kind of health care working people have access to they would pile all their members on buses and tell their friends in the Minnesota Democratic Farmer-Labor Party to get on with passing real single-payer, universal health care legislation; then invite the rest of Minnesotans to board buses to watch the Governor decide whether or not he will sign the legislation... of course, this would take some amount of organizing ability which both of these "labor" leaders seem to lack.

Before workers can organize in their workplaces they need union leaders who will back their efforts... with, or without, the approval from the bosses.

"Employee Free Choice Act" yes; plus, union leaders who dare to struggle, and dare to win.

Yes, Norm Coleman voted against the "Employee Free Choice Act;" but, Slawson's and Waldron's members continue to work under terms of "sweetheart" contracts on casino construction projects, and their members continue to sit at slot machines as we try to organize Minnesota's 20,000 casino workers and convince Minnesota's Democratic Farmer-Labor Party legislators that casino workers are entitled to the same rights and protections all other workers enjoy under state and federal labor laws, and casino workers are entitled to the same "voice at work" members of CtW and the MN AFL-CIO have.

At one time Slawson and Waldron were out campaigning to elect Norm Coleman; now they cry over the way he voted--- as they sit in silence as 20,000 Minnesotans go to work in smoke-filled casinos without any rights. And they don't even care that the "Employee Free Choice Act" will not cover casino workers.

Alan L. Maki
Director of Organizing
Red Lake Casino, Hotel, and Restaurant Employees' Union Organizing Committee