You’re Fired!

Posted on April 19, 2014 by

“You’re Fired!”

The Boss has spoken and, for most American workers, that’s the end of the story.  Proving race-based discrimination – or other forms of bias depending on what state you’re in – could get your job back but that’s not easy and takes a long time.

Without an individual contract, civil service or union protection you’re what’s called an “At Will” employee.  And it’s not your will which determines your fate, it’s the employers’.

In fact, the United States is alone among “advanced” nations which allow the boss to dismiss workers for any reason at all.  The best-known remedy to unilateral employer power is “Just Cause” provisions in union contracts, enforced through the grievance procedure.

Now, a Boston-based union organizer has a plan to expand Just Cause protection to nonunion American workers.

A state-by-state campaign to provide workers the right to a fair hearing when they’re fired would, according to Rand Wilson, do much more than reform employment law.  “It would be a first step,” he says, “on the road to winning full collective bargaining rights.”

A Just Cause movement would:

  • Shift power away from employers and put workers in a stronger position to fight for better pay and benefits
  • Expand the role of unions in nonunion workplaces
  • Give workers more confidence to form unions

Finally, says Wilson, a founding director of Massachusetts Jobs with Justice and currently on staff at SEIU Local 888, “even if campaigns for just cause do not succeed, millions of nonunion workers will learn about the concept, especially if campaigns are based on ballot referendums, and the increased security it could bring to their lives.”

Many good ideas and grand concepts have been developed over the past several decades by activists and strategists, dedicated to “revitalizing” the Labor Movement.

Here’s another one to think about.

Comments (4)


  1. William Voegeli says:

    To be fair – symmetrical – just cause should govern the relationship between employer and employee in both directions, not just one. That is, if an employee wanted to quit to pursue some other opportunity, the employer should have access to the same grievance procedure to keep that particular worker in that particular job, allowing the arbitrator to weigh the employee’s case for leaving against the severity of the damage to the employer’s business.

  2. Ben says:

    Is William Voegeli’s comment serious? It must be tongue-in-cheek!!
    Yeah, the way the economy works in the US today employers have “at will” power over their employees on the job–and in some cases off it as well–but we no longer have slavery. At least I don’t think so.
    Can you imagine? “You can quit–as long as you can give me a good enough reason! Otherwise get back to work!”

  3. RICK CHERTOFF says:

    I would agree with Mr. Voegeli on the principle of being fair and symmetrical, but implement it differently. I would mandate that the employer and the employee share the surplus value created by their joint venture equally, with any increase in take-home pay by one being taken by the other in equal measure, since as Lincoln put it, there is no gain from capital without the efforts of workers.

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