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New report on corporate anti-union tactics

05.20.09

Wanted to alert everyone to the release of a new report from Cornell’s Kate Bronfenbrenner, “No Holds Barred,” that details the growing problem of management tactics that block workers’ ability to form unions.

here’s the report:

http://www.aflcio.org/joinaunion/voiceatwork/efca/upload/No_Holds_Barred.pdf

and our blog post on it:

http://blog.aflcio.org/2009/05/20/corporate-anti-worker-tactics-on-the-rise/

A landmark study examining workers’ freedom to form unions and bargain shows that the problems the Employee Free Choice Act would address are getting worse.

“No Holds Barred: The Intensification of Employer Opposition to Organizing,” authored by Kate Bronfenbrenner, the director of Cornell University’s School of Industrial Relations, documents a disturbing increase in corporate tactics to interfere with, block and delay workers’ attempts to form unions. Workers who want to form a union all too frequently are subject to harassment, mandatory meetings, threats and even illegal firings.

The study, released by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and the American Rights at Work Education Fund, updates earlier studies by Bronfenbrenner. “No Holds Barred” examines more than 1,000 union representation campaigns over the past four years and finds that “intense and aggressive” tactics to block workers’ freedom to form unions are becoming more commonplace.

Coercive tactics to defeat attempts to form a union are all too common, with bosses threatening to close plants during 57 percent of union campaigns and threatening to cut wages and benefits in 47 percent of cases.

In more than 60 percent of union campaigns, workers are forced to attend mandatory one-on-one sessions with supervisors and given anti-union messages or interrogated about support for a union.

The use of negative tactics by employers during union campaigns, like threats of layoffs, has increased, while the use of positive tactics, like promises of wage hikes, has decreased.

The number of employers using 10 or more identified coercive tactics has doubled.

Even for those who do win the election, 52 percent still have no contract a year later, and 37 percent are still without a contract two years after they vote to join a union.

Brofenbrenner writes that these coercive tactics have a chilling effect on workers, which means they’re not able to exercise their basic freedom to form a union and bargain for a better life:

Our findings suggest that the aspirations for representation are being thwarted by a coercive and punitive climate for organizing that goes unrestrained due to a fundamentally flawed regulatory regime that neither protects their rights nor provides any disincentives for employers to continue disregarding the law. Moreover, many of the employer tactics that create a punitive and coercive atmosphere are, in fact, legal.

We’ll be covering the release of this report in greater detail later today, as Bronfenbrenner and other workplace experts discuss the findings today in a Capitol Hill briefing. It’s a critical study in why we so badly need reform that protects the freedom to form unions.

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Seth D. Michaels

blog.aflcio.org