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Fired for Making Too Much?

April 12, 2007

Are you a New York worker who can be fired simply for making too much money? 3,400 sales people who worked for a major electronics chain (Circuit City) got pink slips late last month because the company decided to cut costs. Now, a measure in Congress would make it easier for those workers to form a union. Lance Compa with Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations says the "Employee Free Choice Act" would apply to sales people and other private sector workers.

"I think that’s a striking example of why a law like this is needed. Those people who have built up, you know, 10 or 15 years with the company, they’re doing a good job—and they are totally vulnerable because they have no trade union representation."

Compa says only 17 percent of New York’s private sector workers have union protection.

The House passed the Employee Free Choice Act by a wide margin (241-185), and Andrea Batista Schlesinger with the Drum Major Institute says it is now up to the Senate to consider the measure, which she believes would help New York’s shrinking middle class.

"This is one of those easy steps that can be taken that will make a big difference when it comes to workers’ ability to access health insurance, to make a decent wage this legislation is key to reversing a very dangerous trend, which is the disappearance of the middle class in this country, as we know it."

The Act would provide penalties for employers who intimidate workers, and according to Stewart Acuff with the AFL-CIO, it would also make it a lot easier for workers to join a union.

"You can walk into Republican state headquarters in any state in this country and join the Republican party by signing a card, and we think people should be able to join a union by signing a card."

Michael Clifford/Eric Mack, Public News Service - NY