In the words of the organic act establishing the Department of Labor, its main purpose is "to foster, promote and develop the welfare of working people, to improve their working conditions, and to advance their opportunities for profitable employment."After:
Official History of the US Department of Labor
In the words of the organic act establishing the Department of Labor, its main purpose is "to foster, promote and develop the welfare ofBefore:
working peoplecorporate America, to improve their working conditionsability to stay union free , and to advance their opportunities for profit able employment."
It is declared to be the policy of the United States to eliminate the causes of certain substantial obstructions to the free flow of commerce and to mitigate and eliminate these obstructions when they have occurred by encouraging the practice and procedure of collective bargaining and by protecting-- NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS ACT (Wagner Act)
the exercise by workers of full freedom of association, self-organization, and designation of representatives of their own choosing, for the purpose of negotiating the terms and conditions of their employment or other mutual aid or protection.
It is declared to be the policy of the United States to eliminate the causes of certain substantial obstructions to the free flow of commerce and to mitigate and eliminate these obstructions when they have occurred by***
endiscouraging the practice and procedure of collective bargaining and by protectingpreventing the exercise by workers of full freedom of association, self-organization, and designation of representatives of their own choosing, for the purpose of negotiatingdictating the terms and conditions of their employment or other mutual aid protectionsubjugation.
Earlier this week, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington(CREW) received a 108 page document showing "a close and supportive relationship" between political appointees at the Department of Labor and staff of the anti-union, Center for Union Facts run by conservative lobbyist Richard Berman. The document resulted from a Freedom of Information lawsuit requesting any information about contacts between DOL and Berman.
So what's the problem here? Those younger than a certain age may not remember that the law of the land encourages the formation of labor unions, and that the Department of Labor was created to improve the working conditions and welfare of working people. Yet, these days the sole purpose of the Department of Labor seems to be ignoring workers and acting as if all unions are mafia offspring that deserve about as much sympathy as Al Queda.
So what is the Center for Union Facts and why do we care if they've got a close, personal relationship with the powers-that-be over at the Labor Department? I've written a couple of times recently about the Center. According to its website, the Center is "dedicated to showing Americans the truth about today’s union leadership. The real purpose is to fight the labor movements increasingly successful move to card check organizing.
Card check means that instead of the traditional "secret ballot" election to determine if workers want to organize a union, management voluntarily agrees to recognize the union if a majority sign cards indicting their desire to join the union. Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), it is up to the employer to agree to card check recognition or to require a traditional election.
Because of the difficulty in conducting a fair election, card check campaigns — instead of secret ballot elections — have become labor’s main tool for organizing the unorganized. Card checks were used to sign up roughly 70 percent of the private-sector workers who joined unions last year, according to the A.F.L.-C.I.O, compared with less than 5 percent two decades ago. Workers in Las Vegas casinos, janitors in Houston and thousands of workers at Cingular have organized recently using card check.
And what does the Center do with its corporate funding? Recent advertisements compared UNITE HERE president Harris Raynor to Fidel Castro and Kim Jon Il, the group headed by an operative named Richard Berman who has never seen a corporate scam he couldn't exploit whether opposing Mothers Against Drunk Driving and its efforts to lower the legal blood alcohol content limit or defending the tobacco industry against smoking curbs in restaurants or organizing campaigns against raising the minimum wage. Union "Facts" recent campaign is a slick television commercial that asks a group of perky worker/actors what they "like" about their union: Paying union dues (just so I can keep my job), supporting union bosses' fat-cat lifestyles, that my dues are going to politicians I don't like, and how unions discriminate against minorities,... You get the idea. Berman is also behind an organization called Employment Policies Institute, which describes as “a think tank financed by business” that runs websites opposed to increasing the minimum wage and living wages. You can read more about at the AFL-CIO blog.
CREW's FOIA request was inspired by a Washington Post column last March that revealed an e-mail from Lynn Gibson, an aide in the Department of Labor's public liaison office, that alerts people on her DOL mailing list to an educational opportunity: The website of the Center For Union Facts.
Sensing that there may be more going on behind the scenes at the Department of Labor, CREW filed a Freedom of Information lawsuit requesting any information about contacts between DOL and the Center's Executive Director, Richard Berman.
Crew received a 108 page document showing
a close and supportive relationship between the two entities. For example, the documents include correspondence showing that DOL Secretary Elaine Chao agreed to be profiled for one of Richard Berman’s many conservative organizations, the First Jobs Institute.Berman and friends were apparently a big help to Gibson, having just arrived at DOL from the conservative Heritage Foundation, asked her e-mail list for "Any suggestions as what I need to do to read up on regarding labor-related issues."
The documents include an email indicating that Lynn Gibson set up a meeting between Berman and DOL staff. In another, Ms. Gibson tells a CUF staff person that she will send out emails related to CUF’s website to her “network.” Additionally, the e-mails obtained by CREW and sent out by DOL staff, include an op-ed drafted by Berman, anti-union newspaper accounts as well as anti-union blogs and news releases.
Claiming privilege, DOL has withheld e-mail correspondence including correspondence from Secretary Chao, that directly refer to Berman and his organizations. CREW will litigate this issue and press for the release of all documents responsive to its request.
According to the documents, she spent most of her time reading and circulating to DOL political appointees publications from the Center For Union Facts that they "might get a kick out of," numerous anti-labor articles, as well as publications the State Policy Network's State Labor Policy Exchange. The State Policy Network is a "the professional service organization for America’s state-based, free market think tank community."
Now, I once worked at the Department of Labor and I can certainly sympathize with those who find their e-mail splashed across the Washington Post and passed around the internet. And there's nothing wrong with sending "interesting" items to friends and co-workers.
The problem here is what gets these people excited: trashing labor unions, characterizing them as corrupt pseudo-mafia-like organized crime syndicates who's only purpose in life is to prey on poor innocent workers who want nothing more than to be left alone to develop their own individual relationship with their kindly boss who thinks of them as family.
This is not what the Department of Labor was created for, nor is it what the Department of Labor has ever been used for, by Republicans or Democrats.
- Union Organizing In the 21st Century: Card Check and Roach Motels(FireDogLake), May 30, 2006
- Union "Facts" -- NOT, March 20, 2006
- Not Your Father's Labor Department, March 14, 2006
- Democracy In American Workplaces? Joke, right? March 12, 2006
- The crocigator, February 22, 2006
- Anti-Union Forces Running Ads, Running Scared, February 14, 2006