Op-Ed
by Albert Baldeo
Apr 14, 2009 | 2616 views | 0 0 comments | 55 55 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Employee Free Choice Act, a groundbreaking piece of legislation, was crafted to empower working people to bargain for better benefits, wages, and working conditions. It restores workers' freedom to choose whether to join a union, and enjoys bipartisan support in Congress, and President Obama's pledge to sign it into law if passed. Nearly 75 percent of the public supports the Employee Free Choice Act. Hundreds of respected religious, academic, and business people and organizations have signed on in support.

This law will remove current obstacles to employees who want collective bargaining, guarantee that workers who choose collective bargaining are able to achieve a contract, and allow employees to form unions by signing cards authorizing union representation.

Giving working people the freedom to form unions and bargain collectively is so fundamental to working families that it is key to turning around the economy and rebuilding America's dwindling middle class. The benefits are enormous. Union members are more likely to earn more than nonunion workers, have job-provided health care, and nearly three times more likely to have guaranteed pensions.

This law will allow shared prosperity by restoring workers' free choice to bargain with their companies for a better life, without corporate intimidation and interference. A worker in an organizing campaign has a one in five chance of being fired for union activity. Research confirms that nearly 60 million American workers would form a union tomorrow if given the chance.

Our huge economic meltdown has exposed how CEOs fortify themselves with contracts to protect their outrageous pay and perks, while routinely denying workers the same opportunity - a flagrant breach of U.S. and international laws that are supposed to protect workers' freedom to belong to unions and bargain.

The Employee Free Choice Act would allow workers, not corporations, to choose whether and how they want to form a union. It would give workers a fair chance to form unions to improve their lives by:

• Guaranteeing that if a majority of workers wants a union, they can have one, allowing them to form unions by signing cards authorizing union representation;

• Providing mediation and arbitration for first contract disputes; and

• Establishing stronger penalties for violation of employee rights when workers seek to form a union and during first contract negotiations.

It will create increased unionization among workers at notorious anti-union companies such as Wal-Mart. However, it must be accompanied by state-level legislation that expands on and clarifies its meaning in accordance with the local legal framework. With Democrats holding the majority in our State Senate, the time to act is now.

We should call our Congressional representatives to push this bill. It will go a long way toward restoring dignity to working families.

Albert Baldeo is a community advocate and former State Senate candidate.

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