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Why Are Employment Laws More Important Now Than Ever Before?

If your not familiar with the following terms, FSLA, OSHA, and EEOC, you need to thank liberals in Washington D.C. and through out the past 70 years. Yes, I said liberals and its because of these bleeding hearts that children no longer can be put to work in coal mines or factories. Woman are no longer forced to endure long hours of work in unsafe sweatshops earning pennies and dealing with bosses who subjected them to constant sexual advances and intimidation. If you don't care about that, well maybe you should explain the reason why to your Mother and get back to me on how that goes.

This was our country less than a century ago
Photo by Omar Havana/Getty Images

There is plenty of debate going on right now over the topic of employment laws, with the controversy over unions and their rights to fair bargaining and negotiations for their members in Wisconsin, Wal-Mart Corporation and a case against them going before the Supreme Court.

Washington State is an At-Will state of employment, which basically means, you are AT-Will to quit your employment at any time and the employer is at the same will to end yours. Washington State is also home to several very large corporations, Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, and Costco just to name a few. None of these are union. All of these companies have very large and well trained Human Resources departments that are very well in tune with today’s employment laws and also employee relations issues.

You can say, these giants of industry understand the reasons for employment laws and why they are very important not only to the success of their company’s profit, but also their reputation.

While there is a presently a strong movement in this country to limit certain employment laws and a huge cloud of mis-information as to why we need particular federal government agencies to oversee them. We only need to dust off our history books and read the pages that speak of the labor movements and how things were 100 years ago and follow them to today to see the real reason why we need them.

The unfair labor practices that our great-great-grandparents suffered during the late 1800s to the 1970s come right out of a Stephen King novel. Those horrific and barbaric conditions are today only heard of in third world countries run by dictators and warlords. But just over a century ago, this country was just as bad in unsafe and unfair working conditions.

Anyone who denies this must have been sleeping that day in history class. Young children working in mines and factories, 16 hours a day for pennies. Men working in unsafe and dangerous conditions, having daily accidents that were not cases for workers compensation, but debilitating and many times fatal, only leaving the family with no breadwinner and no recourse for the worker.

Those woman who were allowed to work, did so in horrible conditions, stuffed and locked into sweatshops, producing clothing and materials and again for pennies. If you believe sexual harassment is a problem today, just imagine how horrible it was back then.

Our history books are filled with accidents under all of these working conditions that caused thousands of deaths and injuries. Sometimes, hundreds were killed during a single fire. A fire, that if it happen today, would just destroy property, not lives and families.

There are those that complain, saying we are too safe in the work environment, that the Office of Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is in our businesses too much. But those who are complaining of this have not had their finger or arm torn off by a machine as our grandparents might have witnessed. They did not have their father, mother or children killed in an accident that today would never of happen.

We have the Fair Standards of Labor Act, the Civil Rights Act, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that were put into place to help stop the open and unfair discrimination on the American people. It was not just about discriminating against African Americans, but all races and genders. There was a time in this country when racism was not just a black and white issue. It was more defined by the national origin of where you came from. Irish, Italian, Scottish, Germans, Russian, Scandinavians, among others, all discriminated against each other. Of course, we cannot forget the blatant and undeniable open discrimination that happen against Asians who came over here. The same Asians that helped build and unit the railroads that connected this great country.

These laws were passed to give rights and protection to the people of this country. They were put in place so that just as this country’s Declaration of Independence and Constitution states, equal rights for all. But we all know that it has not always and still is not the case. In 1938, Franklin D. Roosevelt, signed the Fair Standards of Labor Act. But that did not end it.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 declares that open discrimination in the workplace is illegal, but we all know it still continues. This Act had to have amendments to further strengthen its protections for people with disabilities, medical conditions, and even pregnancy.

Further laws had to be put in place and federal agencies had to be established to protect the people of this nation from corporations and businesses that endangered not only their employees, but the environment around us. The Environmental Protection Agency was started to stop companies from polluting our environment and endangering the communities around their factories. I remember as a child the problem with companies dumping pesticides into our drinking waters as if they were pouring out their coffee into a sink.

Just over the past decade, federal legislation had to be put in place to help protect employees from greedy and unscrupulous corporate executive practices that not only destroyed the pensions and lives of its employees, but also helped lead the way to our financial meltdown, Sarbanes/Oxley is a result of the Enron and 3 Com scandals that proved again, the common employee is not safe.

Here in Washington and around the country, employees of the Washington Mutual Bank saw their careers destroyed by unethical and selfish practices by executives that cost thousands of their employees not only to lose their jobs but also many of them lost their retirements and savings.

While unions have had their fair share of unscrupulous scandals and have not always been on the up and up, they have provided the worker with a voice and level of protection.

It’s an equal balance that must be maintained. For those companies that do not and wish to remain union free, they must rely on their Human Resources Departments to make sure that the company’s employees are protected. Not just from the management, but also other employees who engage in unsafe and dangerous practices.

As someone who does not believe in employment unions or too much big brother in my business, I also see the reasoning and accept the need for them. Just as I do not understand why I cannot drive as fast as I want on highway out in the middle of nowhere, I do the second I see someone speeding by me in a reckless manner and later pulled over down the road.