It should not be hard to organize a union.
And a worker certainly should not lose her job for supporting a union organizing drive.
That’s a principle long embraced by leaders of the United States when they speak on the international stage. The United States formally embraces and supports the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which declares, “Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.” When that document was drafted by in 1947, former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt (a key player in the process) wrote, “The United States delegation considered that the right to form and join trade unions was an essential element of freedom. While other associations had long enjoyed recognition, trade unions had met with much opposition and it was only recently that they had become an accepted form of association. The struggle was, in fact, still continuing, and her delegation thought, therefore, that specific mention should be made of trade unions.”
Decades later, the United States continues to adhere to this view—at least officially. While the just-announced Trans-Pacific Partnership deal is flawed on many levels, it includes language that requires countries such as Vietnam to recognize and respect the right to form independent trade unions.
Yet, while the US government tells other countries to respect the right to organize unions and collectively bargain, those rights have been under assault here. And the assault does not just take place in states led by anti-labor zealots such as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker or Ohio Governor John Kasich.
Just ask Allysha Almada, a nurse who has drawn national attention because of the allegation that she was fired from Huntington Hospital in Pasadena, California, in retaliation for her support of a California Nurses Association/National Nurses United effort to organize a union at the facility.
“I was fired for speaking out in my workplace to improve patient care conditions by organizing a union,” says Almada, an intensive care unit (ICU) nurse who notes that she and other nurses raised concerns about failures by the hospital to guarantee adequate staffing and to provide sufficient supplies. “My case is not unique. There are thousands of nurses and other workers who face retaliation when they try to raise their voices collectively to address unsafe condition – conditions that in hospitals and other workplaces actually endanger lives.”