I recently became chair of the Young Democrats of NC Labor Caucus. In that position, I went to the recent event held by Richard Burr and Americans for Prosperity where they attacked unions and declared that the “secret ballot” was under attack. I went to their event, and called them on their lies, and was rewarded with a few interviews. Now the Republicans are after me, and attacking the press for “not investigating” my statements.
Because Brent Woodcox does not allow comments on his blog, I am forced to respond here. I hope that he comes by for an actual debate.
First of all, let us start by looking at the interview in question.
Brent Woodcox starts off his “analysis” by arguing that the opinion of Dallas Woodhouse should be treated by the media in a different way from my statement of fact. He is right, the statement Dallas made is his opinion, and can’t be verified through research.
I won’t go into all of the lies that the Republicans told that could be easily disproved. Haywood has done a pretty good job here. I also highly recommend the work of the group American Rights at Work. They have compiled a large amount of information on unions, and have addressed in detail the claims of the opponents of the Employee Free Choice Act.
"Workers have faced a significant level of intimidation in the workplace, and [bill opponents] want to preserve that system," -Me (Will Cubbison, YDNC Labor Caucus Chair)
They then go on to say that my statement of fact should have been addressed by the media. The insinuation is that I am lying, or have no facts. The NCGOP followed this up, by asking me through twitter if I could prove my case. Well, in a word, Yes.
Worker intimidation by employers is real, both nationally and in North Carolina. There are not a lot of large scale investigations of intimidation in North Carolina, because most cases have little public record because of the confidentiality of most legal cases.
However, there are more than enough examples for me to back up my statement.
I will start with the case of Smithfield, and its Tar Heel Plant. Conditions at this plant were so bad that Humans Rights Watch singled out the plant in its study of work conditions at meat plants in the US.
All witnesses faced challenging cross-examination by lawyers from the other side. In a 442-page single-spaced decision issued in 2000, the judge made detailed findings of massive abuse against workers trying to exercise their freedom of association. Based on the evidence, the judge found that Smithfield illegally:
• threatened to discharge union supporters and to close the plant if workers chose union representation;
• threatened to call the INS to report immigrant workers if workers chose union representation;
• threatened the use of violence against workers engaged in organizing activities;
• threatened to blacklist workers who supported the union;
• harassed, intimidated, and coerced workers who supported the union;
• disciplined, suspended, and fired many workers because of their support for the union;
• spied on workers engaged in lawful union activities;
• asked workers to spy on other workers' union activity;
• grilled workers about other workers' union activities;
• suppressed workers' right to freely discuss the union in non-work areas on non-work time and to demonstrate support for the union at work by wearing unobtrusive union insignia;
• confiscated lawful union literature being lawfully distributed by workers;
• applied a gag rule against union supporters while giving union opponents free rein;
• applied work rules strictly against union supporters but not against union opponents.
All of that was what a judge found from the 1997 NLRB election. Closer to today, in 2006 Smithfield was fined over a million dollars by the government for illegally firing workers who were involved in union activities. Up until 2005 Smithfield had its own police force, and in 2004 a complaint was filed, where an impartial judge said that the company’s private security force:
• physically assaulted employees exercising their rights;
• threatened employees with arrest by federal immigration authorities;
• falsely arrested employees exercising their rights
So obviously union intimidation is going on in North Carolina, but I am sure that the NCGOP will claim that Smithfield is just one bad actor, and we should not punish all businesses because of them.
However, this bill isn’t just about North Carolina. It is about workers across the country who face intimidation at their workplace. According to surveys of workers in union organizing efforts 46% report some form of intimidation by their employer in an NLRB election. By point of contrast, just 4.6% of workers say that the presence of a union organizer would make them feel pressured to sign a union card.
Lets look at a case study of a nursing home in Missouri.
Here is a brief timeline of events:
July 16, 2007 Employees begin meeting to discuss forming a union to improve compensation and address the safety concerns from working with serious psychiatric patients.
August 2-3 Supervisors interrogate employees to determine who is behind the union effort.
August 2 Company fires two union supporters.
August 3 With a majority of employees signing union authorization cards, the Service Employees International Union petitions the NLRB to hold an election, which the agency scheduled for September.
August 6 Company fires third union supporter.
August 7 Company fires fourth union supporter.
August 7 Company calls the police to stop a union representative who was legally handing out information to employees on a public road.
August 10 A supervisor swerves his car within feet of an employee legally handing out union information and threatens to call the police if they don’t stop.
If this still isn’t enough for the NCGOP I will provide them with stacks of data on union intimidation, from NLRB statistics to anecdotal stories of actual employers. In the meantime, can they at least agree that intimidation by employers occurs and start debating the merits of the Employee Free Choice Act instead of lying about it?
"I feel like all in all they were trying to sway some of those who were on the fence, maybe as a scare tactic," she said. "I think it worked because we had a lot on the second shift that we knew were on the fence, and I think that put a little fear in them."