The Corporatocracy vs. Workplace Democracy

Businessman behind web(Photo: internets_dairy)The corporate state today is stronger than it’s ever been.

Thanks to the Supreme Court, our elections are up for sale to the highest bidder – be it a billionaire casino mogul like Sheldon Adelson or a massive transnational corporation like Koch Industries.

And employers can now use the power of their position as the holder of the paycheck to implicitly coerce their employees to vote or lend support to whichever politician the CEO wants – or face consequences on the job. Many companies, are doing exactly that, including Murray Energy in Ohio, Westgate Resorts, and the Koch brothers’ Georgia Pacific.

Mitt Romney himself encouraged employers to use this tactic, as a June 2012 conference call with the National Federation of Independent Businesses revealed Romney saying, “I hope you make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections.”

Plain and simple, the mechanisms by which we the people can control our democracy are being destroyed one-by-one. So the question is, “how do we get them back? How do we wrestle back control from corporate CEOs and the super-rich who have now become Kings in our so-called democracy?”

Now, of course, there’s overturning Citizens United and putting in place a constitutional amendment that says money is property not speech, and corporations are property not people. Go to to get involved in that fight.

But amending the Constitution might take years – even decades. So while we fight that long battle we need to find ways to take on the corporate state in the short-term as well. And the way to do that is to breathe new life in the labor movements, to bring democracy back into the workplace, and to hit the CEOs hard on their home turf: in the offices, on the factory floors, and at the construction sites.

It’s no coincidence that the rise of the oligarchs and the corporate state has coincided with the decimation of organized labor.

As this chart shows, rates of unionization have steadily declined over the last thirty-plus years right alongside the share of national income held by the middle class. And as union rates have declined, the share of wealth in the hands of the super rich has increased.

There is a direct correlation between wealth inequality and plummeting union rates. And today, we have record-breaking levels of wealth inequality in this country and CEOs that used to make 40-times what their workers make now make upwards of 300-times, 400-times, and in some industries thousands of times more money than their workers.

And with all that money these CEOs can control our democracy, buy politicians, threaten workers, and live in a completely separate society safe from the rot that’s taking hold in communities all across the nation as a result of the policies they’re pushing.

With unionization rates at historic lows for modern America, it’s clear labor needs a new weapon to fight back against the corporatocracy. They need what’s called card-check.

Under current law, if workers want to form a union then 35% of the workforce has to sign a petition or a card stating they agree to be unionized. From there, the National Labor Relations Board will set up an election and if half of the workforce votes to unionize, then they have a union. Under this current procedure, employers have several tools – both legal and illegal – to disrupt the organizing process including intimidating or firing employees, spreading lies and misinformation about unions, threatening to close down stores, delaying union elections, and so on. It’s an uphill battle to organize, which is why union busters have been so successful breaking up unions, while organizers have had so much trouble starting new unions.

But card check would level the playing field. With card-check, there is no election and employers never have to catch wind of what’s going on. Basically, if 50-percent of all the workers sign a petition or card indicating they support forming a union, then that union is immediately recognized by the NLRB without the extra added step of an election and without an opportunity for employers to twist some arms.

With card-check, unions can reverse the tide in the war against labor and actually start chipping away at the corporate state. They can start demanding better wages and benefits, limiting political coercion in the workplace, and funding political candidates who will continue the fight in the halls of Congress.

In 2008, when Democrats took control of Congress, there was a huge push by labor to have card-check passed. It was part of the Employee Free Choice Act known as EFCA. Unfortunately, those efforts failed, and ever since then, card-check has been absent from the national debate – a testament to how successful the corporatocracy has been in crushing organized labor.

But now is as good a time as ever to bring card-check back.

Just look at what’s happening at Walmart. Earlier this month in a dozen states, nearly 100 Walmart workers held demonstrations outside their stores. And before that, about 60 Walmart workers went on strike outside a store in Southern California. In Walmart’s 50-year history only once have employees successfully unionized and so Walmart closed that store. Which is why today it takes one Walmart employee, making on average $8.80 an hour, more than 76 million 40-hour weeks to accumulate as much wealth as just one of the Walmart heirs, Tim Walton, who’s worth $27 billion.

Card-check would help tremendously in the effort to unionize Walmart. And if the world largest employers can be unionized, then any corporation can. Card-check, if it were passed into law, would be one of the best tools “we the people” have today to take on the corporate state.

Look it up, learn about it, and get active.