Restoring Workers Rights
The Employee Free Choice Act passed through the House Education and Labor Committee last week, bringing the concerns of working Americans to the forefront in Congress for the first time in years.
The Employee Free Choice Act seeks to allow workers to form unions by signing a card or petition, and would also impose stronger penalties on employers who violate labor laws and allow for arbitration to settle first contract disputes.
This legislation closely mirrors one of the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s key policy recommendations outlined in its 100 Days Agenda. The Agenda proposes that we can significantly strengthen workers’ rights by requiring employers to bargain with unions who have who have demonstrated majority support on the basis of “card-check recognition.” The Action Fund argues that allowing employees to sign union recognition cards in support of union representation will give workers greater freedom from employer interference and intimidation.
As House Education and Labor Chairman George Miller (D-CA) stated last week, “we’ve been complaining about what’s been happening to people who’ve tried to get representation at the workplace, and harassment, and the retaliations, and intimidation,” and this is the first step toward doing something about it.
The Employee Free Choice Act is not expected to get the necessary 60 votes in the Senate to overcome the filibuster that will likely come from conservative senators. And even if it did receive the necessary votes in the House and Senate, Vice President Dick Cheney has said that the president will definitely veto the legislation.
Yet even if the legislation is not enacted, it opens up an important discussion about the growing economic insecurity of the middle class. As Chairman Miller told Congress Daily last week, “This debate isn’t without purpose. There’s an audience of people who are thinking, ‘How do I get to retirement? If I get laid off at 50 years old, how do I get to Medicare?’…There’s a world of difference between those people who are fortunate enough to have a union and those who don’t.”
The Center for American Progress has been calling attention to the incredible opportunity that collective bargaining can offer working Americans for a long time. Workers are the backbone of our nation’s economic prosperity and deserve to be treated fairly, with dignity, and with respect. No one who works hard should ever have to live in poverty, and expanded unionization through collective bargaining can alleviate poverty and preserve this trust.
Since President Bush took office, the National Labor Relations board has consistently taken aim at unions, weakening the rights of American workers. Debate over the Employee Free Choice Act is a good first step toward restoring these rights and advancing the interests of American workers.
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