To allow workers the freedom to choose to form unions, more than 200 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate have recently co-sponsored the Employee Free Choice Act. As a result of the advocacy surrounding the legislation and a greater focus on the economy and workforce-related issues, the rights of workers and unions have become the subject of many debates across the country. In light of the July 4 holiday, many Americans are using newspapers as a way to voice their concerns about the state of declining union membership and the implications for the U.S. workforce. The following is a sample of editorial opinion from across the country.
West Virginia – Charleston Gazette
July 4, 2004 – Letter to the Editor – link unavailable
"This Independence Day, we should remember a fundamental human right is being denied to working people each and every day.
"When workers attempt to form unions to improve their lives, they are almost always met with a huge campaign of opposition from employers that use harassment, intimidation and coercion. In fact, in a quarter of cases when workers come together to try to form unions in the private sector, a worker is illegally fired…
"The law is so weak that employers routinely get away with breaking it. That means the whole community suffers because it creates downward press on wages and benefits.
"As a laborer and an American, I urge our elected leaders on this Independence Day to support the Employee Free Choice Act (S1925/HR3619), which is co-sponsored by more than 230 members of Congress of both parties. This legislation ensures when workers choose to form unions, they can do so without the debilitating obstacles workers currently face."
Augusta, Georgia – The Augusta Chronicle
July 3, 2004 – Letter to the Editor – link unavailable
"…If it wasn't for the unions fighting for the common working man years ago, you and others probably would be working for $3 an hour with no benefits or anything else.
"Even today, most working people who are making a decent wage either because of unions or they are union members. The big companies don't want unions because they would have to pay their workers decent wages and benefits. They would rather have illegals and others, and pay minimum wages and work them part-time with no benefits."
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
July 7, 2004 – Letter to the Editor
"Does letter writer…think companies pay a good wage and benefits out of the goodness of their hearts?
"My wife was chief steward for the Communications Workers of America 13550 for more than 20 years. We could not have bought a home or a decent car without the unions.
"She was transferred to Florida, where unions are almost nonexistent. Sure enough, she was given a pink slip and we are now losing our home."
Salt Lake City, Utah- Deseret Morning News
July 8, 2004 – Editorial
"Come Monday, some 50 former employees of c=W. Mining's Co-op Mine in Emery County will return to work. The miners, most of them Mexican nationals, were fired from their jobs last fall for attempting to organize a union to address poor pay and mine safety issues.
"…Although the NLRB validated the miners' contention that they were fired illegally, they will return to the same working conditions and the same pay, which is paltry by industry standards. The miners were paid between $5.75 to $7 an hour to work in the underground mine outside Huntington. C.W. Mining Co. officials say the wages paid the miners is commensurate with their work histories. Some of them had no mining experience.
"According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the prevailing wage for mining or other "natural resource production" jobs in the West is about $18 an hour.
"…Next week, the miners have an opportunity to start fresh and, one hopes, negotiate a contract with the mine owners that ensures them a living wage and safe working conditions. Considering that this victory was a result of the miners' dogged determination (illustrated by their round-the-clock picket at the mine since the lockout began last fall), and the assistance of local, state and international union activists, religious leaders and volunteers dedicated to the cause of social justice, ongoing attention will be required to ensure that the Co-op miners achieve the dignity they seek."