A few weeks ago, I posted about a New York Times op-ed arguing that the “right to join a labor union” should be a protected classification under Title VII.
The issue is starting to pick up steam in the union-friendly blogosphere. For instance, yesterday over at the Huffington Post, Dean Baker, a well-respected think tank scholar, has a blog post about why this should occur. The biggest reason for thinking that it won’t happen is that other piece of union friendly legislation that now sits in the Congressional graveyard: The Employee Free Choice Act. Leaving aside the preemption issue I discussed before, Baker makes some shrewd points about how making the right to organize part of Title VII might actually be an easier sale than passing EFCA:
If it ever was passed into law, Kahlenberg and Marvit’s proposal would likely have substantially more impact on unionization rates than the EFCA, but more importantly the proposal has a greater prospect of gaining the sort of popular support needed for passage. The issues that motivated the EFCA required a knowledge of the specifics of union organizing that few people have. As a result, even people sympathetic to labor often did not support the bill. By contrast, the Kalhlenberg-Marvit proposal is rooted in a rights-based approach that should be more intuitive to the public.
The authors are not naïve in thinking that this reframing will cause a bill to magically sail through Congress and land on the president’s desk. Employers will be every bit as forceful in opposing a bill that seeks to give workers this right to sue as they were in opposing ECFA. However, the big difference is that labor and its supporters are far more likely to be able to gain the popular support to overcome this opposition going the civil rights route.
I’m not sure that Baker is right, but employers may want to watch this issue.