In a recent study of worker interest in unions, Harvard University professor Richard B. Freeman found that “The proportion of workers who want unions has risen substantially over the last 10 years.” In fact, “if workers were provided the union representation they desired in 2005, then the overall unionization rate would have been about 58%.”
So how come the unionization rate is only about 12%? One reason is that union busting efforts by employers have grown ever more intense and effective. Cornell University professor Kate Bronfenbrenner recently examined employer responses to union organizing drives over the period 1999-2003. Among other things, she found that:
* 63 percent interrogate workers in one-on-one meetings with their supervisors about support for the union.
* 54 percent threaten workers in such meetings.
* 57 percent threaten to close the worksite.
* 47 percent threaten to cut wages and benefits.
* 34 percent fire workers.
Moreover, worker problems are far from over even if they successfully form a union; more than half of new unions remain without a contract one year after winning election.
The Employee Free Choice Act was designed to address some of these issues—unfortunately, but not surprisingly, Congress and the President have largely walked away from their past commitments to support it.