Many people, who do not look beyond the vision or the rhetoric to the reality, still think of labor unions as protectors of working people from their employers. And union bosses still employ that kind of rhetoric. However, someone once said, "When I speak I put on a mask, but when I act I must take it off."
That mask has been coming off, more and more, especially during the Obama administration, and what is revealed underneath is very ugly, very cynical and very dangerous.
First there was the grossly misnamed "Employee Free Choice Act" that the administration tried to push through Congress. What it would have destroyed was precisely what it claimed to be promoting -- a free choice by workers as to whether or not they wanted to join a labor union.
Ever since the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, workers have been able to express their free choice of joining or not joining a labor union in a federally conducted election with a secret ballot.
As workers in the private sector have, over the years, increasingly voted to reject joining labor unions, union bosses have sought to replace secret ballots with signed documents -- signed in the presence of union organizers and under the pressures, harassments or implicit threats of those organizers.
Now that the Obama administration has appointed a majority of the members of the National Labor Relations Board, the NLRB leadership has imposed new requirements that employers supply union organizers with the names and home addresses of every employee. Nor do employees have a right to decline to have this personal information given out to union organizers, under NLRB rules.
In other words, union organizers will now have the legal right to pressure, harass or intimidate workers on the job or in their own homes, in order to get them to sign up with the union. Among the consequences of not signing up is union reprisal on the job if the union wins the election. But physical threats and actions are by no means off the table, as many people who get in the way of unions have learned.
Workers who do not want to join a union will now have to decide how much harassment of themselves and their family they are going to have to put up with, if they don't knuckle under.
In the past, unions had to make the case to workers that it was in their best interests to join. Meanwhile, employers would make their case to the same workers that it was in their best interest to vote against joining.