Opinions and Editorials
Should Senate approve Employee Free Choice Act?
by Amy F. Isaacs
YES: Helping workers unionize provides big boost for middle-classDistributed by the McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Labor law reform is essential to reviving America's beleaguered middle-class. Pooling resources and banding together with those who share similar beliefs and goals is a basic right.
We might join our neighbors to pressure our local government to save a park or to fix roads. Maybe we join a parents' group to help out at our children's school or take part in organizing a neighborhood watch program.
These are all basic ways in which we organize to improve the vitality of our communities.
The right to organize has been crucial for most of our great movements. Colonists banded together to defeat oppressive English rule; suffragists organized so women could vote; nations collaborated to fight totalitarianism in World War II; and civil rights activists joined together to secure a more equal opportunity for minorities. Think of any great change that we have undertaken and the basic human right to associate has been a centerpiece of the success.
The right to organize in the workplace is an essential component for a vibrant democracy. Yet for many American workers, this essential human right is suppressed. Dedicated workers struggle against tremendous odds to fashion better lives for themselves and their families. They are harassed, coerced, even fired for their efforts to band together and organize their workplace.
While these tactics are often illegal, the current system as governed by labor law and through the lax enforcement by the National Labor Relations Board is so flawed and weak that many workers who try to organize wait years only to see their lawless former employers slapped with meaningless fines and half-hearted admonitions.
People who are simply trying to join with their peers in an effort to improve their wages, health care and workplace safety are brutally harassed by employers and often fired for exercising this most basic of freedoms.
Congress is debating legislation that would remedy many of these shortcomings. The Employee Free Choice Act seeks to give workers a simple process for choosing to organize, a streamlined system for getting labor contracts enacted, and to strengthen the punishment and enforcement of employer labor law violations.
The U.S. House recently passed the Employee Free Choice Act, but the debate in the U.S. Senate is yet to come. The legislation allows workers to choose their own course free from the illegal campaign tactics that employers have come to rely on.
The reality is that corporate bullies don't want their bats taken away. According to the NLRB's own records, a worker is fired for trying to organize his/her workplace every 23 minutes. That must end. It's no coincidence that the shrinking of America's middle-class has run parallel to the dwindling of its vibrant labor movement.
When workers have a greater say in the day-to-day environment in which they work, everyone wins. Passage of the Employee Free Choice Act would help to ensure worker rights and bolster the prosperity of the American middle-class.***
Amy Isaacs is the National Director of Democratic Action (ADA) (www.adaction.org), the nation's most experienced liberal lobbying organization.