Two pro-union organizations, American Rights at Work and Economic Policy Institute, this week released a new study by Cornell professor Kate Bronfenbrenner, "No Holds Barred: The Intensification of Employer Opposition to Organizing." The study, like Professor Bronfenbrenner’s earlier studies, blames all union failures on unlawful conduct by a majority of American employers. Among the Professor’s conclusions:
It has become standard practice for workers to be subjected by corporations to threats, interrogation, harassment, surveillance, and retaliation for supporting a union. An analysis of the 1999-2003 data on NLRB election campaigns finds that:
• 63% of employers interrogate workers in mandatory one-on-one meetings with their supervisors about support for the union;
• 54% of employers threaten workers in such meetings;
• 57% of employers threaten to close the worksite;
• 47% of employers threaten to cut wages and benefits; and
• 34% of employers fire workers.
Of course, like the data in the Professor’s earlier work "Uneasy Terrain: The Impact of Capital Mobility on Workers, Wages, and Union Organizing," all of the data comes from interviews with union organizers. It is little wonder why unlawful employer conduct is identified as the reason unions fail to organize employees and negotiate first contracts. Do they expect the organizers to answer the surveys: "We didn’t have much to offer the workers and just didn’t try hard enough"?
Yet, Professor Bronfenbrenner defends her methodology by explaining that it would not have made sense to talk to the employers involved in the campaigns she studied, because they would only have lied to her:
…it is simply not possible to use employers as an alternate source. As we have demonstrated in previous studies, the overwhelming majority of employers are engaging in at least one or more illegal behaviors (at minimum 75% of the employers in the current sample are alleged to have committed at least one illegal action). Not only would it be next to impossible to get employers to complete surveys in which they honestly reported on illegal activity, but that kind of question would not be permitted by university institutional review boards since it might put the subjects at risk of legal action.
It certainly sounds like the researchers do not even want to consider the additional — not "alternative" — information because they have already presumed their conclusions to be true. And by excluding additional sources of data for consideration, they seem to have guaranteed the results. Why would a serious research effort proceed in this manner? Perhaps the acknowledgments (p. 33) suggest the answer:
This project could also not have been completed without the generosity and fi nancial support of numerous foundations, labor federations, and their affi liate unions. I would like to thank: American Rights at Work, Berger-Marks Foundation, Discount Foundation, Economic Policy Institute, Panta Rhea Foundation, Poverty & Race Action Council, Public Welfare Foundation, Union Privilege; and the following unions and federations: AFL-CIO, AFSCME, AFT, AFTRA, BCTGM, CNA, CTW, CWA, IAMWA, IATSE, IBEW, IBT, IFPTE, IUOE, LIUNA, NEA, SAG, SEIU, UAW, UFCW, UMWA, UNITE HERE, USW, UTU, UWUA, WGAW. EPI and ARAW get special mention for their eff ort in producing this report.
Expect to hear a great deal of citation to Professor Bronfenbrenner’s research by EFCA proponents as the debate over EFCA kicks into higher gear later this summer.