Monday, June 21, 2004

Workers (Acting Collectively) are Terrorists

Nathan Newman reports on a recent NLRB decision (where NLRB, which formerly stood for National Labor Relations Board, now stands for No Labor Rights Board). For the last 70 or so years, the National Labor Relations Act was supposed to protect the rights of all workers, not just those represented by unions. But no more.

As Nathan explains:
Here's the core of the decision. In 1975, the Supreme Court declared that anyone meeting with a supervisor where they thought they might be fired or disciplined had the right to a labor representative there to act as a witness. In 1982, the NLRB decided this right applied to workers in non-union settings who had a right to a fellow worker there in a similar role. Three years later, the now-Reagan dominated board reversed that decision. But in 2000, in what was called the Epilepsy Foundation decision, the Clinton labor board restored the original right non-union workers had to a witness when they may be fired. This interpretation of the labor law was upheld as valid even by the often anti-union DC Circuit Court of Appeals in 2001.

But the Bush board in a new decision, I.B.M. Corp., killed that right for non-union workers, allowing employers to discipline them without witnesses or moral support
What's most astonishing to me is one of the reasons the Board used to justify this decision:
We simply observe that some employers, faced with security concerns that are an out-growth of the troubled times in which we live, may seek to question employees on a private basis for a host of legitimate reasons...
Huh? In other words, so for security reasons (e.g. terrorism), employers have the right to "question employees on a private basis." In other words, because of 9/11, non-union employees must give up their right to be accompanied by a co-worker. Are al Qaeda cells lurking in American workplaces? Does the NLRB fear that critical national security information will be transmitted directly from a disciplinary meeting to Osama bin Laden?

Well if it's a threat to homeland security for a non-union employee to be accompanied by a co-worker, why isn't it a threat to the homeland for organized workers to be accompanied by a union representative?

In fact, it's not large step to deciding that unions themselves are a threat to national security. Oops, the Bush administration has already decided unions in some government agencies may be a security reisk "in these troubled times" and has even used the war on terrorism as an excuse not to give federal employees raises.

What's good for the (federal) goose, may also be good for the (private sector) gander.

The terrorists have won.