May 28th, 2012

Battle for the WBI Workplace Bullying law always uphill

Healthy Workplace Bill

People ask why our Healthy Workplace Bill (HWB) legislation in the U.S. states has not yet been passed into law in any state. Not for lack of trying, of that we are certain. People who only casually observe politics are not aware of the power the business lobby exerts in each state. Here’s a mini-lesson about the current landscape in which gay marriage can pass but a bill prohibiting health-harming abusive conduct faces nearly insurmountable obstacles.

In New York state, the Assembly version of the HWB (A 4258) has 84 sponsors, only 76 votes are needed to pass. In the same legislature, the Senate killed a recent bill to raise the minimum wage while legalizing same-sex marriages. NY State polls showed 78% public support for a slightly higher minimum wage.

Who could oppose such a popular and simple measure as raising the minimum wage in these times of Wall Street excesses and abuse? Opponents are the entire business lobby, led by the respective state chambers of commerce, that’s who. But Gov. Cuomo is an ostensible liberal and advocate for the people, right? Well, it’s not that simple. He personally supported a raise for the lowest paid working folks, but he did not throw his political weight behind it because he said it represented a “broader and deeper” divide for his constituents. Had he done so, he would have crossed the chamber. Withholding active support is a clever way to appear to support without appearing complicit in the defeat, opponents then kill bills by influencing the state representatives.

In Vermont, another state that boldly passed same-sex marriage equality, the lawmakers were much less than bold with respect to workplace bullying (S 52). They gutted the entire bill electing to allow the state to study its prevalence using state agency resources at a time when budgets are strained.

Business, on the other hand, was willing to support same-sex marriage. It was not anti-employer. Regardless of however the small the wage raise was set to be (about 75 cents an hour), it rankled employers who want total domination of “their” workforce. It’s a plantation mentality. We are slaves and owned by employers.

Politicians of ALL parties are afraid to cross swords with chamber legislative plans. By the way, SHRM (the HR trade organization most known for its lobbying work at the federal and state level) has always opposed our workplace bullying bill. This clearly shows where HR, which sometimes claims to be “employee advocates,” stands.

Businesses get the laws they want while we advocates for social justice, human dignity or workers’ rights plead year after year to no avail. There is nothing in the Healthy Workplace Bill for good employers to fear. In fact, employers with adequate protections against workplace bullying for workers and who faithfully enforce their policies will be exempt from litigation (they will have affirmative defenses to escape vicarious liability).

When business lobbyists oppose the bill (as they did in WA State in 2012, watch the video), they lie about the bill’s content. They utter thoughtless, reflexive objections (“don’t regulate us,” “of course bullying is bad, but we can handle this ourselves,” “to add abusive conduct to the list of behaviors prohibited by law would tie our hands and interfere with our ability to be competitive”).

Right now, in 2012, the time is right to dare Gov. Cuomo and the NY Republican-led Senate to finally support the Healthy Workplace Bill (A 4258 & S 4289). Given the Governor’s unwillingness to lobby for the minimum wage increase, it’s an uphill fight to make HWB the law. This is nothing new to our brave network of State Coordinators backed by the moral message brought forward by testifying citizen lobbyists who have been mercilessly bullied at work.

Please support our bills in New York and Massachusetts — the two states with the greatest hope of passing the HWB into law in 2012. Vist the New York State page and the Massachusetts State page at the national Healthy Workplace Campaign website.

Bullying serves NO business purpose other than to preserve the status quo of employer domination with its unlimited managerial prerogative. Bullying cannot be defended on any reasonable grounds: it’s expensive; it creates turnover of the best and brightest; it impairs productivity; it damages employee health; it reinforces a workplace culture of destruction; it tarnishes an employer’s good reputation; and it lowers everyone’s quality of life and well being.

Here’s the current status of our legislative efforts in 2012.


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This entry was posted on Monday, May 28th, 2012 at 11:15 am and is filed under Fairness & Social Justice Denied, Healthy Workplace Bill (U.S. campaign), Tutorials About Bullying. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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