Is it Non-Credible to be Pro-Union?
Kate Bronfenbrenner is the director of labor research at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations. This week, she released a new study entitled "No Holds Barred: The Intensification of Employer Opposition to Organizing." In it, Bronfenbrenner examined 1,004 randomly sampled NLRB certiﬁcation elections that took place between January 1, 1999 and December 31, 2003 and surveyed participants in 562 of the campaigns. Her results are troubling, but not surprising.
Employers threatened to close the plant in 57% of elections, discharged workers in 34%, and threatened to cut wages and beneﬁts in 47% of elections. Workers were forced to attend anti-union one-on-one sessions with a supervisor at least weekly in two-thirds of elections. In 63% of elections employers used supervisor one-on-one meetings to interrogate workers about who they or other workers supported, and in 54% used such sessions to threaten workers.
Nasty stuff, but hardly revelatory. Which makes this New York Times article on Bronfenbrenner's research all the weirder. It seems half-interested in quoting her study and half-interested in saying things like Bronfenbrenner "has often been criticized by business groups for her pro-union positions." Elsewhere, it quotes a member of the Chamber of Commerce saying, “Kate’s long been allied with the union movement and has issued studies in favor of the Employee Free Choice Act the last few years. She is certainly not an objective source.”
But what does that have to do with anything? This is a study. Either the data sets are sound or they are not sound. Either the elections were randomly chosen or they were not randomly chosen. Either the facts are correct or they are wrong. This is peer-reviewed work. It relied on information in the public domain. It can be checked. If the Times thinks Bronfenbrenner study is wrong, then they should either debunk it or not report on it. If the Chamber has a good argument against the data, then that should be reported. But letting members of the Chamber fling some mud in the general direction of Bronfenbrenner's credibility doesn't help anything. It's not as if they're "objective sources" either.
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