Yesterday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promised that no Republicans will vote for the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), should it come to the Senate floor. In order for the bill to pass “the Democratic members will have to do it,” he said.
In a speech before the business organization Commerce Lexington, McConnell explained that the reason for such uncompromising opposition is that workers don’t actually want to join unions due to the “very enlightened management in this country now”:
McConnell said the AFL-CIO wants the measure approved because “private sector union membership has declined from a high of 35 percent in the 1950s to 7.5 percent now.” That has happened “because we have very enlightened management in this country now, treating employees better and employees have decided they don’t want to pay the dues.”
McConnell has already made his personal opinion that EFCA will “Europeanize America” well known, and with this rhetoric, he has officially aligned the entire Republican position on EFCA with that of the Chamber of Commerce (which has said that EFCA is a “no-compromise” piece of legislation). But if McConnell truly thinks that the reason more workers aren’t joining unions is because of “enlightened management,” he hasn’t been paying any attention to the reality of working and organizing in America.
For starters, an AFL-CIO survey found that there are 60 million American workers who say that they would join a union if they could. The reason that they can’t is because employers threaten to close plants in 57 percent of union organizing drives and threaten to cut wages and benefits in 47 percent, while ultimately firing pro-union workers 34 percent of the time.
As Kate Bronfenbrenner, Director of Labor Education Research at the Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations pointed out, over the last 20 years “employer opposition [to unionization] has intensified…and the nature of campaigns has changed so that the focus is on more coercive and punitive tactics designed to intensely monitor and punish union activity.”
And in addition to anti-union campaigns, management in this country is engaged in a whole host of other labor violations. Yesterday, a new survey came out in which 68 percent of low-income workers reported being subject to a pay violation in the previous work week alone. This isn’t meant to paint the entire business community with a broad stroke — as there are surely plenty of companies that don’t engage in this sort of behavior — but the problem is far more widespread than McConnell and the rest of the Republican party are evidently willing to concede. And just like with health care reform, the GOP has already decided that it’s not interested in discussing a solution.
Cross-posted on The Wonk Room.