Noted below is the somewhat odd fact that the Employee Free Choice Act hasn’t even been introduced in the 111th Congress yet. You would think that union supporters would have had enough clout to make it a Day 1 hoopla-and-huzzah piece of legislation, but the strategy is obviously otherwise. Perhaps a May 1 introduction date instead?
In preparation for its introduction, Rep. George Miller (D-CA), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, has sent around a Dear Colleague letter asking for original cosponsors. Here’s the text of the letter/e-mail. (We’ve cut out the identifying phone and e-mail.)
Be An Original Cosponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act
From: The Committee on Education and Labor
Sent By: XXXX
Be an Original Cosponsor of
The Employee Free Choice Act
January 22, 2009
In the 110th Congress, we made historic strides in the fight for workers’ rights and economic fairness. The Employee Free Choice Act, which would restore workers’ rights to organize and collectively bargain, garnered 234 House cosponsors, from both sides of the aisle. It passed the House with 241 bipartisan votes.
Unfortunately, opponents refused to allow a vote in the Senate on this critical bill for working families, and the Bush White House promised a veto.
As we begin this new Congress, with stronger pro-middle-class majorities in both Houses and a President who supports the bill, I am writing to urge you to join me as an original cosponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act.
This bill is more important than ever.
As the current economic crisis shows us, we cannot maintain or grow a middle class on credit. During the last recovery, real income stagnated or declined for most Americans, even as productivity increased. Americans relied on increased consumer debt and decreased savings rates to maintain middle class lifestyles. This proved unsustainable. To ensure that the next economic recovery is fair and sustainable, we must re-link rising productivity with rising wages. Workers need to be able to exercise their rights to join together and push for a seat at the table and a better deal. The Employee Free Choice Act is critical for an economy that rewards work and works for everyone. As Nobel Laureate economist Paul Krugman recently explained: “[The Employee Free Choice Act] will enable America to take a hu! ge step toward recapturing the middle-class society we’ve lost.”
The current system for forming unions and bargaining is badly broken. Workers are frequently denied the right to determine for themselves whether to form a union. Employers routinely intimidate, harass, coerce, reassign, or even fire workers who support a union. A Center for Economic Policy Research report found that an active union supporter has a one in five chance of being fired for legal organizing activities. Employers who break the law face no fines and treat the back pay they may be required to provide a fired worker as a mere cost of doing business. Even when workers manage to form a union, employers can continue a union-busting campaign by refusing to reach a first contract. A recent study found that 34 percent of newly organized unions still did not have a contract after two or three years of bargaining.
- On average, workers who belong to unions earn 30 percent more than nonunion workers, and they are much more likely to have healthcare and pension benefits. And the American people know it – surveys find that more than two-thirds of Americans believe that unions can make a difference for today’s workers. Corporate executives can negotiate lavish pay and retirement benefits for themselves – but, without a union, workers have little leverage to negotiate for a better life for themselves and their families.
- The Employee Free Choice Act would restore workers’ rights to form unions and bargain. The legislation would stiffen penalties against employers that break the law, and it would provide for mediation and binding arbitration when parties are unable to agree on a first contract. Under the Employee Free Choice Act, if a majority of workers in a workplace sign cards authorizing a union, they get a union.
- The Employee Free Choice Act rightly leaves the choice to form a union up to workers – not corporate executives. Under current law, workers can form a union through an National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election or, only if the employer agrees, majority sign-up. The Employee Free Choice Act still provides for an NLRB election process, triggered when 30 percent of the workers petition for one – same as current law. But a majority of workers could opt for the less divisive majority-sign up process, and the employer would not be able to veto that choice.
- Majority sign-up is a tested idea. Majority sign-up has been used since the 1930s. Since 2003, a half million workers have organized through this process. When responsible employers have agreed to majority sign-up, instead of the divisive NLRB process, coercion is reduced, and more cooperative labor relations develop.
- Freedom of association is a fundamental human right and a deeply-held American value. Every American deserves the right to freely decide whether to form or join a union just as they deserve the right to freely decide whether to join a church or a political party. The Employee Free Choice Act goes a long way toward guaranteeing this freedom for workers.
It is time to give working families a fair shot at exercising their basic rights without fear, intimidation, or coercion. And it is time to give American workers a fair shot at fighting the middle class squeeze on their families. As we work to stem the downturn and stimulate the economy, we should ensure that this recovery, unlike the past recovery, is a fair recovery that grows the middle class.
Please contact Meredith Regine at ext. XXX or XXXX to have your name added to the list of original cosponsors of the Employee Free Choice Act.
Committee on Education and Labor