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Justice for Healthcare Workers


Right to Have a Union
Bangor Daily News Letter to the Editor by John Curtis

According to the May 8 op-ed by Eastern Maine Medical Center CEO Deborah Carey Johnson, labor unions are largely unnecessary in the 21st cen-tury America, especially at EMMC. She accurately notes that union membership has sharply declined since 1945.

The reasons she cites for the decline are both fallacious "growing employer recognition of the value and importance of the people in their organizations, as well as strong state and nationally enacted workplace laws protecting workers."

In fact, union membership is declining because employers use both legal and illegal tactics to block organizing drives. A report issued by the University of Illinois at Chicago Center for Urban Economic Development surveyed 62 organizing drives held in the Chicago area during 2002.

The report found that 30 percent of employers fired pro-union workers; 49 percent threatened to close work sites when workers attempted to organize; 51 percent coerced employees into opposing unions with bribery or favoritism; 82 percent hired union-busting consultants; and 91 percent forced employees to attend one-on-one anti-union meetings with supervisors.

Johnson's op-ed does not address whether or not EMMC management is using these tactics. Johnson's other explanation for declining membership is equally wrongheaded.

In recent years, particularly under President Bush, laws protecting workers have been seriously weakened. Take coal mining. In 2001 Bush began appointing coal industry executives to the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) which later rejected a plan to give coal miners Personal Emergency Devices, which could have saved the lives of 12 miners killed in the non-union mine at Sago, W.Va., on Jan. 2.

The most effective way for workers to protect themselves and to improve their jobs is to exercise their democratic right to organize into a union of their choice. I hope Johnson and the management at community-supported EMMC will play fair in this process.

John Curtis


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Last modified: 2/18/2010

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