Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Forgotten Role of Unions

In this heated political seasonheated before the real action even beginsthe public needs to be reminded of some little-remembered truths about the role of unions in America.  And attention needs to be focused on the persistent tendency of Republicans to demonize unions.  Our memory of the importance of a strong labor movement needs refreshing.  As my generation well remembers, when unions were strong several decades ago the American middle class was the envy of the world.  The economic progress that unions produced through collective bargaining represented an important feature of a free enterprise system that was spreading the wealth with a minimum of governmental participation.  If employees are again allowed to achieve substantial union representation without employer interference, that is the direction toward which this country can again be moving.
Despite their rhetoric, anti-union employers are not interested in workers exercising free choice in choosing or not choosing union representation.  They are proving that once again, at this very moment, with three pending federal court lawsuits which they filed against the National Labor Relations Board in order to prevent employees from learning of their rights in the workplace about how to be represented or not represented by a union and how to protect themselves when their employer “interferes with, restrains, or coerces” them in the exercise of those rights.  Obviously, non-union employers are afraid to allow their workers to learn about their rights, fearing that some might actually exercise them.  Through those law suits and two bills in Congress, major anti-union employer organizations, including the National Association of Manufacturers, the U. S. Chamber of Commerce, and the National Right to Work Foundation, with the assistance of some Tea Party members of Congress, are thus now conducting an expensive and intensive campaign to avoid having to post workplace notices advising employees of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act.  Such an effort by private parties to suppress official speech should be deemed shameful in a free democracy.  It is also noteworthy--but sad--that the general media have virtually ignored these happenings.
I close this brief message with a reminder that we should not forget what most Americans today never knew, that the right to organize in unions and engage in collective bargainingbut not the right to refrain from such activityis the official “policy of the United States” expressly spelled out in the law by Congress.  Despite several unsuccessful efforts by non-union employers and their Republican allies to change that policy, this is still the national labor policy.  Although they were unable to legally change the policy, they did succeed however, through a sustained program of historical revisionism, in creating a false conventional wisdom that denies that policy.  It is time for the truth to prevail, for this important legal issue has the capacity to contribute to the regrowth of a strong middle class, which certainly needs to be understood in this election season.   My latest article, How the National Labor Relations Act was Stolen and how it can be Recovered: Taft-Hartley Revisionism and the NLRB Appointment Process, which will soon be published by a University of California at Berkeley law journal, fully documents the history and law showing the current applicability of this national labor policy.  I shall have more to say on this subject in future blogs.  I also want to advise that I have a personal involvement in the matter of the above NLRB notices, about which I shall provide further information at a later date.       


  1. From the man who wrote the book on labor law -- "Developments in Labor Law -- this is a welcome blog to remind us that the Wagner Act is all about.

  2. Great first post! I look forward to more in the future, and am very interested in learning more about how the anti labor forces were able to coopt public sentiment in the way you suggest