a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Employee Free Choice Act

Posted by Thomas Nephew on June 14th, 2005

From American Rights At Work:

So far this year, 10,000 workers have been fired or discriminated against for supporting a union. It’s illegal for employers to intimidate, coerce, or fire employees for supporting a union. But it happens all the time.

That figure is probably an underestimate – it’s based purely on the number of National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)-ordered back pay awards to employees illegally fired or otherwise financially punished for labor activities. What the NLRB doesn’t know about doesn’t get counted.

I think the right to unionize is an essential part of a decent, well functioning economy. Companies with billions in their bank accounts for advertising, political largesse, and sometimes brute force have a huge advantage over ordinary employees if there aren’t unions to insist on decent pay, hours, and benefits, and safe working conditions.

The American Rights At Work organization is asking everyone who cares about labor rights and the freedom to form unions to join in support of the Employee Free Choice Act (H.R. 1696, S.842). The bill, sponsored by Representative George Miller (D-CA) in the House and Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) in the Senate, would impose stiffer penalties against employers that violate labor law. It would also

…set up a process for newly-organized workers to negotiate a first contract in a timely manner. Under the Employee Free Choice Act, workers could opt to follow the “voluntary recognition” method of organizing, where workers choose union representation through a process in which a majority signs cards indicating their support.

This process offers a more private way to signal support for union representation, and is thus less susceptible than formal votes to company pressure tactics — such as firings. For more information about “card checks,” see ARAW’s fact sheet Card Check vs. NLRB elections:

During the traditional NLRB process:*
• 25% of employers fire at least one worker for union activity during organizing campaigns.
• 92% compel employees to attend mandatory “captive audience” meetings to hear and view anti-union propaganda with no opportunity for questions or discussion.
• 52% of employers threaten to call the INS to intimidate undocumented workers.
• 51% threaten to close the plant and relocate if workers choose union representation.

The Employee Free Choice Act is common sense fair play for employees who need to negotiate for better deals from their employers. Let your Senators and your Representative know you support this bill.

* Kate Bronfenbrenner, “Uneasy Terrain: The Impact of Capital Mobility on Workers, Wages and Union Organizing,” U.S. Trade Deficit Review Commission, 2000. This footnote was copied from the cited ARAW fact sheet.

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