WATCH: Reps. Levin, Fitzpatrick, IFPTE, CWA on Urgent Need for Safer Union Elections
WARREN, MI – Congressman Andy Levin (D-MI), Member of the House Education & Labor Committee, hosted a virtual press conference with his co-lead for H.R. 308, the SAFE Workers Act, Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) President Paul Shearon and Communications Workers of America (CWA) Secretary-Treasurer Sara Steffens. H.R. 308 demands the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) use 21st century technology to conduct elections remotely, allowing workers to organize while ensuring the safest workplace possible during the pandemic.
In addition to discussing worker stories showing why electronic voting is needed, the speakers expressed their hope that labor law reform can rise above the political fray following a year that has changed the daily lives of workers all across the country.
“Our goal is to take workers’ rights out of the realm of politics altogether. Unfortunately, we have seen many organizations use COVID as an excuse to suppress workers’ rights, and this is unacceptable,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “Electronic voting allows workers to vote safely and securely. We should be giving them every chance we can to succeed.”
You can watch the entire press conference here or view excerpts below:
CWA Secretary-Treasurer Steffens: “During the pandemic, we’ve seen major corporations show their willingness to use the most underhanded, disgusting, union-busting tactics imaginable to prevent our essential workers from joining together to improve their working conditions. Just last week, Amazon tried to delay a union representation election at their warehouse in Alabama and they insisted on in-person voting despite surging COVID cases. They’re trying to force workers to put their lives at risk with union-busting tactics like these. We’ve seen others use the pandemic as an excuse to cancel union representation elections entirely. At Gannett, 150 workers were forced to wait months to join CWA’s News Guild after COVID-19 concerns were used as an excuse to cancel already scheduled elections. All the while, Gannett was conducting furloughs, they were not even giving masks to some of the journalists who were going out in the community every day to provide life-saving reporting. Mail-in ballots would have allowed the workers to exercise their freedom to join a union, but the current law gives employers all kinds of avenues to block this safe and efficient process for voting. That has to change. It’s completely unacceptable.”
Rep. Levin: “I started organizing workers in 1983, there really aren’t other countries that turn a decision about whether or not to form a union into a contest between workers and their boss. Look, once you have a union, have at it! The boss has every right to duke it out for what the wages should be, what the benefits should be, how to divide the pie, and how to be innovative and efficient. Great! But this weird thing in American ‘exceptionalism’ about employers being a party in the decision among workers – Amazon clearly here is saying ‘Hey, let’s just buy more time to have an anti-union campaign!’”
IFPTE President Shearon: “The National Labor Relations Act was actually put in place to encourage collective bargaining and to protect the rights of employees. It says right in there that ‘employees shall have the right to self-organize.’ That means the employees – that doesn’t mean the employer has the right to interfere in the election. That they get the right to captive-audience meetings. That they get the right to intimidate employees and terminate them and do everything that they do in the current environment. However, that is in fact what happens. Over the many years collective bargaining has been around and the act has been steadily depleted in its effectiveness, as the workplace has changed and the laws have stagnated or gotten worse, what we have seen is that union organizing and unions as a percentage of the population have diminished, wages across the country have gone down, and it has not benefited the country in the whole.”
Along with 78 bipartisan cosponsors, the SAFE Workers Act is endorsed by the AFL-CIO, many of its affiliated unions, and other unions. Endorsing unions include: American Federation of Teachers (AFT); Communications Workers of America (CWA); International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM); International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT); International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE); International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW); National Labor Relations Board Union (NLRBU); Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU); Service Employees International Union (SEIU); Transport Workers Union of America (TWU); and United Food & Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW).