Monday, June 11, 2007

Restore the Right to Bargain for a Better Life

American workers are struggling to make ends meet and keep the vanishing middle class alive. But workers routinely face intimidation, harassment, and exploitation from employers when they try to form a union to bargain for a better life. It's a startling statistic: In 25 percent of organizing campaigns, private-sector employers illegally fire workers because they want to form a union.

The House has already passed the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill aimed at restoring American workers' freedom to join unions. Almost all of New York's representatives voted in favor of the bill; Thomas Reynolds (R-NY 26) and John Kuhl (R-NY 29) were the exceptions.

In the next two weeks, the Senate will vote on this legislation. Supported by a bipartisan coalition in both houses of Congress, the Employee Free Choice Act would allow working people to bargain for better wages, benefits, and work environments. Unions have long been the cornerstone in the fight for fair working conditions, and it is essential that we restore this most fundamental right. The Employee Free Choice Act would:

  • Strengthen penalties for violation of employee rights when workers seek to form unions, including companies that illegally coerce or intimidate their employees
  • Provide a neutral third party to mediate and arbitrate contract settlements between companies and newly certified unions
  • Establish majority sign-up, which would force companies to recognize unions if a majority of employees sign union authorization cards

Resolutions in support of the Employee Free Choice Act have been passed in eight states and introduced in nine more. At the federal level, the bill is backed by a bipartisan coalition of 281 Congressmen, including 27 New York representatives and both senators. Here is why we at the Working Families Party support it...

Current labor law is severely biased towards employers. Under the National Labor Relations Board's current rules, penalties against employers for violations are spineless, while unions suffer greatly for their infringements. Since the current penalties are so weak, companies regularly use coercion and intimidation to draw out union election processes for months. By forcing companies to recognize unions and by implementing harsher penalties against employers who break laws, the Employee Free Choice Act would be a major step in leveling the playing field.

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