I suppose that this article is as good as any to illustrate how, as the writer puts it, the National Labor Relations Board gutted the right to unionize a couple of weeks ago.

What with changing jobs, starting my second year of grad school, and other various tumult in my personal life, sadly my following of the news of late has been not what it usually is. Though, it’s true, there hasn’t been a lot brewing that I’ve much cared to write about (well, except for Plan B being overruled by the Bush administration, which I may write about at a later date). Not even Mark Foley. He’s a scumbag who goes after underage girls. He should resign. There will be major backlash for the GOP. This is not surprising, and I don’t much care to analyze it further.

ETA – One of my fantastic and news-savvy readers gently reminded me that Mark Foley is a scumbag who goes after underage boys – I, however, am not editing the above paragraph, because it simply illustrates how much I do not care about this story. By the by, if you’ve read today’s news, he’s also a scumbag who blames being a scumbag on the Catholic Church, which, while it doesn’t make me care anymore, it makes me dislike Foley that much more, but I digress and return you to our regularly scheduled blogging.

No, rather, this NLRB decision which seems to have generated hardly any buzz at all, is far more interesting. For those who choose not to click on the link above, the gist is this: “supervisor” was redefined to mean anyone who “supervises,” the definition being up to interpretation. By this, the NLRB has essentially told employers that anyone working at a para-professional level or higher in an organization can be denied the right to unionize.

A New York Times article was left on my desk this morning in regards to this decision. It was dated Oct. 3rd. I couldn’t believe that I had somehow missed this – then again, Google News indicates to me that there hasn’t been a whole lot of press on the matter.

Feelings on unions are mixed, especially in the State of New York. Unions in New York have tremendous political clout and financial resources, and often in protecting the interests of their membership, some would say they cross the line into infringing on the rights of the public they serve. A prime example is the Transit Workers Union December 2005 strike. The people the TWU hurt the most was not the Metropolitan Transit Authority, but instead the working class of New York City who depend on that public transportation for their livelihoods. And, perhaps if they were making a statement against egregious human rights issues – such as, for example, mandatory, unreasonable overtime – more people would have been more supportive. However, it was over increasing the retirement age of new hires and contributions to the health insurance plan. What with skyrocketing health costs coupled with people living longer, and a six year waiting list to get into MTA employment, this was hardly what the forefathers of labor rights had in mind when the union movement gained momentum.

Having said that, unions do more good than harm. They work hard to secure rights for working and middle class Americans, and more often than not it is an uphill battle. Now, with this ruling, not only will certain people be excluded from union protections that they would otherwise opt to have, the unions themselves will lose power simply by a decreased membership. Now, if membership decreases because an organization decides to allow an “open shop” policy – essentially, allowing an opt-out of union membership, and also union protections – and membership decreases as a result, it is market forces and free choice that does so. With this ruling, however, it disrupts the balance of power between manager and worker. Some argue that a “closed shop” – compulsory union membership – does this by artificially inflating union membership, but forcing people out of unions (much like, in my opinion, forcing people into unions) is hardly a democratic way of handling the issue.

Yet, regardless of the impacts to organizations which likely have not even been considered, it’s a simple labor rights issue. In the same way that someone shouldn’t be forced to join a union if he doesn’t want to, someone should not be denied the opportunity to join a union, either.

It gives whole new meaning to the term “closed shop.”

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