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Why We Need the Employee Free Choice Act, Now More Than Ever

Why We Need the Employee Free Choice Act, Now More Than Ever

Labor activists are hoping that the Democratic congress and the Obama administration will join forces to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that would make it easier for workers to join unions. And it’s never been more important than in the face of our current economic recession.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, if 5 million service workers join unions, $34 billion in total new wages would flow into the economy. These 5 million workers would get, on average, a 22 percent raise, an effective stimulus for our suffering economy.

It is because of benefits like these that so many Americans prefer unionizing. According to a recent poll, 60 million U.S. workers said they would join a union if they could. But oftentimes they are discouraged by their employers.

Studies have shown that about 25 percent of companies illegally fire employees for trying to form unions. The Employee Free Choice Act proposes stiff penalties for any company that tries to harass, intimidate or fire workers because of their efforts to join a union.

Big corporations have strongly opposed the motion and have made significant lobbying attempts to steer Obama away from passing the bill. On the campaign trail, Obama pledged to support the bill several times.

But is it likely to pass with the new Obama administration? It might not be as simple as you might think.

The Washington Post reported that Obama “favored the legislation, [but] said there may be other ways to achieve the same goal without angering businesses. And while many Democrats on Capitol Hill are eager to see a quick vote on that bill, he indicated no desire to rush into the contentious issue.”

Too often we have seen workers harassed or threatened when they try to organize. Make sure that these companies are held responsible and that workers rights to organize remain secure. Make sure that Obama does not keep the interests of large corporations ahead of workers rights. Sign a petition to urge Obama to support the Employee Free Choice Act.

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3 comments

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10:50AM PST on Jan 31, 2009

Martha and Ted-
I agree that there are some unions that are more interested in their own progress than the workers they are supposed to protect. Unions need to be scrutinized to make sure they are performing their job... But I still feel that organization through unions provides much more leverage for workers, as opposed to nothing at all. Unions have a strong influence on a company, and they provide a safe place for workers to go if there is a problem. In the absence of a union, what choice does a worker have? Speaking out against injustice may very well get him/her fired.
Ted- I have taken Economics 101, and that theory is not true across the board. What about all the case studies that Card & Krueger have documented? Their numerous studies have really challenged the theory that minimum wages and increasing costs in labor cause unemployment.
I am interested in hearing more about your experience with the IUOE. What was it that the unions were failing to do?

11:11AM PST on Jan 24, 2009

I can understand both sides of the argument. There may have been some workers who were wrongly mistreated or fired in their jobs, and there may have been unions whose motive is geared more towards their own survival rather than for the workers themselves for whom they serve.

What to do about that? How can you get corporations and unions to work together for the common good?

5:32PM PST on Jan 23, 2009

Hi Megan,
Check out Economics 101: if you increase the cost of labor, business will use it less. Which means many of those 5 million service workers might join a union, just prior to being laid off. If you want to see where unrestrained unionism leads, check out northern Europe. BTW, their STRUCTURAL unemployment rate runs about 20%!! And last I checked, the only employment offered by a union is for their very well compensated fat-cat bosses. I was a member of the IUOE for over 10 years so I know well of where I speak. And God-forbid you try to object to the actions of Union management. This 'FREE CHOICE' crap is something straight out of George Orwell's Animal Farm.

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Julie M. Rodriguez Julie M. Rodriguez is an arts, green living, and political writer based in San Mateo, CA. Her work... more
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