4:50 PM Eastern - Wednesday, May 20, 2009

New Research Shows Rise of Corporate Intimidation and Threats Towards Workers for Supporting a Union

The current system to form a union in the workplace is grossly slanted in favor of employers who too often use harassment and intimidation to stop unions and keep workers from getting a fair deal--and it's only gotten worse in recent years, according to a new study from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and American Rights at Work.

Today only 12.9 percent of U.S. workers belong to a union, despite the fact that studies have shown that if workers' preferences were to be realized , as many as 58 percent would have union representation. The overwhelming majority of workers who want a union do not have one--in large part because of the ineffectiveness of current labor law to protect and enforce workers' rights in the election process.

"No Holds Barred: The Intensification of Employer Opposition to Organizing," authored by Cornell University professor Kate Bronfenbrenner, found that corporations are more than twice as likely to use 10 or more tactics in their campaigns against workers' organizing efforts--with a ramped-up focus on coercive tactics designed to intimidate and punish union workers seeking to form a union. The research looked at 1,004 union organizing drives and found that employers threatened to close plants in 57 percent of the campaigns and threatened to cut wages and benefits in 47 percent of elections.

Other significant findings of the report, from the 1999-2003 data:

  • Interrogation: In 63 percent of all union organizing campaigns, workers are interrogated in one-on-one meetings about their support of the union or their coworkers' stance on the union. These sessions occur at least once a week in two-thirds of elections.
  • Threats: 54 percent of workers are threatened during such meetings.
  • Firings: Workers are fired during 34 percent of election processes.
  • Resisting Collective Bargaining: Even in cases when workers do successfully win their election, 52 percent still have no contract one year later and 37 percent are still without a contract two years after they vote to form a union.

(For more, read the fact sheet and full report).Based on these new findings, it's not hard to see why the majority of workers believe that in the face of increasingly severe employer opposition, they would be taking a sizable risk if they were to organize. The fact that in 2009 it is considered "standard practice" for workers to have to endure threats, interrogation, harassment, surveillance and retaliation at the hands of their employer for trying to have a voice on the job is an unjust reality that no worker in America should be subjected to. Reform of our broken labor system must be taken by Congress, and passage of the Employee Free Choice Act is the first big step.

Passing this legislation will greatly reduce the erosion of workers' ability to form unions and toughen penalties on employers who violate the law - so tell your members of Congress that they need to support the Employee Free Choice Act. We're counting on members of Congress to put the protection of their working constituents ahead of their own job protection.

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