Tuesday, April 14, 2009

From the Field: Employee Free Choice Actions Everywhere

With members of Congress at home for the April congressional recess, the grassroots campaign to pass the Employee Free Choice Act is in high gear, with more than 300 events taking place around the country in support of workers’ freedom to form unions and bargain. Here are some highlights of this nationwide effort.

Last Tuesday, hundreds of workers rallied for Employee Free Choice in Harrisburg, Pa. Among the speakers were Ed Sadusky and Ken Matz, two workers at a steel plant in Cressona, Pa., who were subjected to intimidation, harassment and management roadblocks in their attempt to form a union. Their efforts to bargain for a better life were thwarted by corporate pressure and delays, and it took them two and a half years to get a fair first contract. Their story illustrates why we need the Employee Free Choice Act.

In Florida, union members and members of Jobs with Justice delivered more than 8,500 letters to the office of Sen. Bill Nelson to thank him for co-sponsoring the Employee Free Choice Act. It’s just one of the many activities in support of the legislation happening all across Florida during the recess.

As part of the “Faces of the Employee Free Choice Act” campaign, union members and community allies are touring Colorado accompanied by moving billboard trucks bearing the faces of Dan Luevano and other workers whose stories show the need for the Employee Free Choice Act.

In Indiana, supporters of the bill held a faith empowerment breakfast featuring Kim Bobo of Interfaith Worker Justice and members of various religious groups.

In northwest Indiana, union members held a working lunch where they wrote letters and made phone calls to their senators asking them to support the Employee Free Choice Act. A similar working lunch was held in Texarkana, Ark., and another was held in Omaha. Thousands of phone calls and letters are going out to senators around the country.

In Orono, Maine, author Barbara Ehrenreich was the featured speaker at a symposium about the Employee Free Choice Act. She said that by reducing inequality and giving workers bargaining power, the bill will serve as an economic stimulus.

The campaign to pass the federal legislation is active in Louisiana, too. Louisiana AFL-CIO President Louis Reine recently published an op-ed in the Bogalusa Daily News in support of the bill, which he says is critical to strengthening the economy by protecting workers’ ability to bargain for a better life. Says Reine:

Companies routinely intimidate, harass, coerce and even fire people who try to form a union and have collective bargaining.

Current law is ineffective in stopping these corporate practices, and penalties are so slight for breaking the law that many corporations simply consider it the cost of doing business. The government found that companies violated the rights of 26,824 workers in 2006 alone. Especially under these current economic conditions, it is time to stand up for working Americans. It is time to rebuild the American middle class.

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