What is The One Union?
A Response to Questions and Concerns
This past weekend I had the pleasure of speaking with three representatives of the North Dakota AFL-CIO including the state president Waylon Hedegaard.
They had many questions about The One Union and reminded me of some important things to consider as we move forward. They were concerned that the way we present our organization could give people the false impression that we were a labor union recognized by the National Labor Review Board (NLRB) which we are not.
“The National Labor Relations Board is an independent federal agency vested with the power to safeguard employees’ rights to organize and to determine whether to have unions as their bargaining representative. The agency also acts to prevent and remedy unfair labor practices committed by private sector employers and unions.”
As you can imagine, the rules and regulations regarding the activities of labor organizations are extensive. As an organization not recognized by the NLRB we have more flexibility in how we operate. This does not mean we are above the law.
The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (NLRA) mandated the creation of the NLRB to enforce the rules and regulations established in the NLRA. Section 7 of the Act (shown below) establishes the rights of employees.
RIGHTS OF EMPLOYEES
Sec. 7. [§ 157.] Employees shall have the right to self-organization, to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing, and to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection, and shall also have the right to refrain from any or all of such activities except to the extent that such right may be affected by an agreement requiring membership in a labor organization as a condition of employment as authorized in section 8(a)(3) [section 158(a)(3) of this title].
The AFL-CIO representatives also indicated that our name, The One Union, was in some ways false advertising as we are not a recognized labor union and that it could be confused with the “One Big Union” tagline associated with the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W). It is not easy to pick a name for a new company that is an area of operations that has been ongoing since the late 1800’s. Just about any name we could have picked would have some connection to an existing organization. So why did we pick The One Union? Our mission was to form a coalition of like-minded individuals who join of free will and are dedicated to the fight for better wages and benefits for the American worker. It sounds like a Union right? In mission and philosophy, it is a union, but not a labor union recognized by the NLRB. The phrase that came to mind was from the Declaration of Independence: “…. in order to form a more perfect union.” Tired and disgusted with the partisanship of politics and the inability of the government to address the massive inequality in America, we decided that a new type of union was needed, one based on a corporate model. The continued rise of monopolies and huge amounts of money spent by corporations and the 1% to control and influence our government has made it impossible for the average worker to get a fair deal.
The War Against Unions
The coordinated assault on American unions and unionization has resulted in a major loss of bargaining power for the worker. In 1981, President Reagan dealt a deadly blow to the air traffic controllers union when he fired all the striking workers. The most recent blow came when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Janus effectively ending the collection of fees by public sector unions from non-union members.
Wikipedia includes the following description using information from a New York Times article, “Supreme Court Ruling Delivers a Sharp Blow to Labor Unions,” of the case decision:
The Supreme Court heard the oral argument of the parties on February 26, 2018. On June 27, 2018, the Court ruled in a 5–4 decision that the application of public sector union fees to non-members is a violation of the First Amendment, ruling against AFSCME. Justice Alito wrote for the Court, joined by Justices Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas, and Gorsuch. Alito wrote that agency-shop agreements violate “the free speech rights of nonmembers by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern.” Alito recognized that losing these fees would put a financial burden on the public sector unions, who would continue to have to represent nonmembers even without their agency fees, but stated that “we must weigh these disadvantages against the considerable windfall that unions have received.”
Anti-union organizations spend millions of dollars annually to weaken unions and prevent new ones from forming. The efforts of large corporations such as Target, Walmart, and Amazon to prevent the formation of unions have been well documented. Here is an excerpt from an article in the Los Angeles Times: Group funded by conservative billionaires launches anti-union campaign following Supreme Court ruling
“In a 2016 speech to Americans for Prosperity, the advocacy group backed by the Koch brothers, the Freedom Foundation’s then-Oregon coordinator Anne Marie Gurney said, “Our No. 1 stated focus is to defund the political left,” the Guardian reported. The prior year, Freedom Foundation CEO Tom McCabe authored a fundraising letter touting its “proven plan for bankrupting and defeating government unions” and addressing “a broken political culture” fueled by union dues.”
The Michigan Chamber of Commerce is promoting a one-day course on how to prevent unions. Here is a portion of the agenda from the website:
Union-Organizing: Keep unions from entering the workplace, even with election speedup
- Union business model and its weakness
- New union strategies to rebuild the union business, including use of election speedup
- How unions organize, what unions sell, and why employees are organized
- What advantages unions have and how to overcome them
- Short- and long-range winning strategies to build and maintain a positive workplace and avoid unions
Risks of Union Organizing Activity
Although illegal, it is not uncommon for employees found to be engaging in union organizing to be punished and possibly fired by the employer. Any infraction or error by the employee is used to justify the punishment or firing. Depending on the type of strike, workers that go on strike may or not get their jobs back. The following explanation from the NLRB offers some clues to how strikes are defined:
“Strikes for a lawful object. Employees who strike for a lawful object fall into two classes “economic strikers” and “unfair labor practice strikers.” Both classes continue as employees, but unfair labor practice strikers have greater rights of reinstatement to their jobs.”
What does all this mean to The One Union and its members?
We are in uncharted territory. It is impossible to predict all issues that may arise from our efforts to strike a better bargain for the American Worker. We do know that some businesses go to great lengths to prevent union organizing of any type including The One Union. We are ready and willing to face the challenges ahead as we forge a new path and hope you will join us on this journey.