Today Evan Horowitz of the Boston Globe released this amazing article, “Tom Brady has more rights than most American workers,” highlighting the way that Tom Brady is using the rights afforded to him by his union (the NFL Players Association), and his collective bargaining agreement, to fight his proposed suspension.
“…it’s worth remembering that the only reason Brady has been able to press his case this far is because he’s in a union, which affords him lots of additional workplace rights.”
Deflategate drama aside the Horowitz makes some really good points about the realities of a low unionized workforce.
“The vast majority of American workers aren’t union members. They’re “at-will” employees, with no legal right to be treated fairly at work. In fact, most Americans can be punished, even fired, for being too attractive, or too short, or having the wrong politics — or for no reason at all.”
Horowitz continues by explaining the an employees’ right to “due process” and “fire at will” laws
Don’t employers need a good reason to fire people?
If you’re in a union, then the answer is yes. Generally speaking, union workers can be fired only for “just cause,” so there has to be a good reason.
But nonunionized, at-will workers can be fired for bad reasons, or no reason at all.
… Here’s a short list of reasons you can be fired, put together by Brooklyn College Professor Corey Robin: “not smiling at work, smiling too much; not being friendly to my coworkers, being too friendly; demonstrating insufficient initiative, not being a team player; kowtowing to management, being insubordinate; being a leader, being a follower; braiding my hair in corn rows, wearing it straight; wearing long pants, wearing short pants; sporting an earring, refusing to do so; having a beard, shaving it off; fingernails too long, fingernails too short.”
These have serious implications in todays work environments, managing workers through fear.
Corey Robin has written at length about how the lack of worker protections feeds a culture of fear in the American workplace: The fear of being fired at any moment, of failing to live up to your boss’s expectations, of crossing lines you didn’t know existed. “Among the adult population,” he writes, “only prisoners and soldiers are expected to obey their superiors more often and more unquestioningly.”
Along similar lines, University of Michigan political philosopher Elizabeth Anderson has referred to American corporations as private governments, mini-dictatorships where the executives lord their power over subordinate workers, who are subject to exile (firing) at any moment.
Yet, Anderson admits that most Americans don’t understand how powerless they are, or how profoundly subject to the whims of their employers. And that itself tells us something.
It is very telling. The majority of workers do not understand the laws that surround their employment. They only know that they can be fired at any time, which discourages them from speaking out even when they do know that laws are being broken.
Maybe this is why public support for unions and their organizing efforts have begun to rise. According to a Gallop poll, 59% of Americans approve of labor unions. This is up over ten percent since 2009.
Or maybe it is because people are being to realize that being in a union has more benefits that just job protections. It means better healthcare benefits, paid time off, and of course higher wages.
A recent study just showed that women who are covered by a union contract will earn on average $212 a week more.
For over a hundred years labor unions have been standing up for workers and fighting against corporate greed. One of the best examples right now is the nationwide fight to raise the minimum wage that is being pushed by labor unions and community advocates. They are fighting for a $15 minimum wage and the right to form a union.
More union members and stronger unions are just what America needs right now.