Sunday, November 30, 2008

Labor's Employee Free Choice Act

marjorie says...

Here's an article I wrote for the NM Independent last week, about the Employee Free Choice Act:

As Obama promises union push, business promises to push back

“It’s not a matter of if. It’s a matter of when.”

These are the words President-elect Barack Obama used in March 2007 about organized labor’s top priority for the next administration: the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it much easier for workers to organize and gain first-time contracts with their employers.

A common refrain Obama used on the campaign trail was that it was “time we had a President who didn’t choke saying the word ‘union.’” Not only would he sign the bill, he promised, but he would work to make sure it got to his desk.

At the time, the House of Representatives had voted for the bill by a comfortable margin. Obama co-sponsored it in the Senate, but Democrats couldn’t muster the 60 votes necessary to override a Republican filibuster and move it to a vote in June of that year.

Since then, Obama has been elected president, and the Senate is just a hair’s breadth away from a 60-vote Democratic majority. So far the Democrats have 58 seats — including two independents who caucus with the party — with two still in the balance. If Democrats win two remaining seats in Georgia and Minnesota, the bill will have virtually assured prospects for passage.

Richard Trumka, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, was expressing confidence about the bill’s prospects even before the Democratic gains on Nov. 4.

“Without a doubt - the Senate Democrats will be there,” he said in an interview with the Independent in Albuquerque last month. “They understand the importance of this act, that unions are good for the country. The union worker makes 30 percent more than non-union — and if the union worker is an ethnic minority or a woman, that percentage goes up even higher. The distribution problem starts to go away. When workers have a union contract they’re vastly more likely to have health care and pensions.”

But it won’t be easy. Randel Johnson, vice president of labor policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, characterized the coming battle as a “firestorm.”

Proponents of the act say it will help prevent employers from bullying workers to vote against joining unions, while opponents say it would allow union organizers to bully workers into unionizing.

Read the rest here.

oh, and Check.