AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
Jan Cornell is president and full-time organizer for Staff Union at the University of Virginia (SUUVA), established in 2002 with the mission "to give workers strength, dignity, and their own voice." Its hundreds of members include clerical workers, housekeepers, IT staff, nurses, telephone operators, landscapers, and lab techs. Jan spoke with Susan Fraiman, UVA professor of English, to bust union myths and set the record straight on organized labor at the University of Virginia.
Susan: What are some of the myths about unions in the United States?
Jan: One myth is that unions are a dying institution, that workers just aren't interested in joining. It's true that union membership nationwide is on the decline. About 8 percent of the private sector is unionized, and 12 percent of public sector workers like us. But this is not because workers don't want to join a union. 90 percent of workers asked said they would join a union if they had the chance. The problem is a Bush-appointed NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) that rules in favor of companies. Companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire union busters to intimidate and threaten workers out of forming a union. Workers get scared they will lose their jobs if they support a union--which is illegal of course, to fire someone for joining a union. Fortunately UVA hasn't hired any union busters yet! So that's another myth--that you can be fired for joining a union. You can't. It is illegal under state and federal law to fire anyone for joining a union, for handing out union literature, for participating in rallies, marches, or pickets.
Some people buy the myth that unions are corrupt. The fact is that very few unions are corrupt, and then the ones that are tend to be at the local not national level. Unfortunately, there will always be a few local officers who embezzle money. The Teamsters, who had a reputation for being corrupt, are under government surveillance and have been For a decade. They have cleaned up their act in these past years. What I tell SUUVA members …