Obama Claims Victory!

Last night, the American people voted to give Barack Obama and Joe Biden
a second term in the White House. In another round of good news, the Democrats
were also able to maintain a Senate majority. In the hard-fought race for the
Massachusetts Senate, Elizabeth Warren was able to unseat Republican Scott
Brown. Ms. Warren’s pro-transit and pro-worker leanings will likely yield many
happy returns for the working men and women of Massachusetts.

He Didn’t
do it Alone

The President reached the 270 Electoral College votes required to win
the election when the voting results from Ohio came in and propelled the
President past the 270 mark. Ohio was a much discussed swing State crucial for
the candidates to win. Ohio has a long and proud manufacturing tradition and
has a unionization rate greater than most other States in the Union. According
to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, 13.4% of state’s workers belong to unions.
Nationally, 11.8% of workers belong to unions. Labour union in the State
canvassed heavily for the President.

unions are a fairly reliable voting base for the Democrats, but Democrats rely
on labour unions for more than their votes. Labour unions traditionally help to
get-out-the-vote for the Democratic candidate, and the unions in Ohio during
this election didn’t disappoint. In Ohio, union efforts to help the President
to win re-election were even more pronounced during this election cycle. Last
year, Ohio union members fought to overturn an anti-labour Bill known as Senate
Bill 5. Senate Bill 5 aimed to roll back the collective bargaining rights for a
large contingent of Ohio’s public service workers. Mitt Romney had expressed
support of the Bill. In part due to union opposition efforts, voters rejected
the Bill. Senate Bill 5, coupled with Republican support of legislation that
weakens the bargaining power of unions, and other anti-labour sentiments
expressed by Romney, are some of the many reasons that the fervour of unionized
support for the President was so apparent and helped to grant the President

What Does This Mean For Unions?

The re-election of Barack Obama as the President of the United States
has several important, and positive, implications for unions. The most notable
of which are:

1. Support for the Right to Organize

President Obama supports the rights of workers to organize. He supported
the Employees Free Choice Act, which is an effort to empower workers to
organize. The purpose of the Act was:

To amend the
National Labor Relations Act to establish an efficient system to enable
employees to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to provide for
mandatory injunctions for unfair labor practices during organizing efforts, and
for other purposes[2].

Unfortunately, after great debate the Bill was referred to Committee and
essentially died. Despite this outcome, however, we see the President’s strong
interest in supporting the labour unions.

2. Support for Labour Law Protections

On September 29, 2006, under former President George Bush, the National
Labor Relations Board (NLRB) made a series of decisions colloquially called the
“Kentucky River” cases. These decisions classify certain workers as supervisors. The effect of classifying
these workers as supervisors was to both remove them from the protection of the
National Labour Relations Act and to
remove any requirement to include these workers in private sector bargaining
units. Current President Barack Obama has fought against these decisions in
order to protect and preserve the rights of the many workers these decisions
adversely impact.

3. Support for the Right to Strike

Since 1938, employers in America have had the right to permanently
replace workers if the workers strike for an economic reason. Striking for
better wages is an example of a common economic reason to strike. President
Obama has stated that he would work to ban the permanent replacement of
striking workers

4. Protection of Fair Labour Standards

According to the Washington Times, Labor Department officials in the US
have recommended removing the “companionship exemption” from the Fair Labor Standards Act(FSLA). The
FSLA exempts from minimum wage and overtime pay obligations many home care workers
who provide “companionship services for individuals who because of age or
infirmity are unable to care for themselves. President Obama has backed the
proposal of the Labor Department, saying of home health care workers: “They
deserve to be treated fairly. They deserve to be paid fairly for a service that
many older Americans couldn’t live without.”

While President Obama’s support for unions has been challenged and at
times thwarted by fierce opposition, the President’s strong support cannot but
help the unions. According to the opinion of many, Obama is the greatest ally
labour unions have had in the White House in several decades. The president has
shown support for making organizing easier, and has been instrumental in seeing
that the government’s principal labor-relations agency has been filled with
individuals sympathetic to labour unions and the labour movement.
If the past four years have been any guide, America can expect the next
four years to be spent with a President who continues to show great support for
the unions.

We congratulate President Obama and Joe Biden and all the candidates
that participated in these elections. We especially congratulate the unions in
Ohio and across America for taking bold pro-active steps to help Obama to be re-elected
and protect the interests of their members. Not only is this a victory for the
Obama team, this is a victory for all Americans who support unions and believe
in the labour movement.



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