The Fight for Labor Law Reform Continues

Our guest blogger is Seth Michaels, Online Communications Coordinator at the AFL-CIO.

efcaToday, the New York Times reported that a half-dozen senators have decided to drop the majority sign-up provision of the Employee Free Choice Act in favor of a requirement for “shorter unionization campaigns and faster elections”:

Several moderate Democrats, including Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, have voiced opposition to card check, convinced that elections were a fairer way for workers to unionize. They were swayed partly by business’s vigorous campaign, arguing that card check would remove confidentiality from unionization drives and enable union organizers to bully workers into signing union cards.

You have to read almost to the end of the Times piece before learning that lawmakers continue to discuss various details of the bill — it’s not a done deal. There are details to be worked out in the legislative process, and meaningful labor law reform must include the three principles underlying the Employee Free Choice Act:

— Workers must have a free choice and a fair path to choose to form a union, free from intimidation.

— Real penalties must exist for employers who break the law.

— Workers who choose a union must be able to get a fair first contract

— Companies must not be able to engage in endless delays and stalling tactics to deny workers a collective bargaining agreement.

With President Obama’s backing — reiterated on Monday — and the support of the majority in Congress, this is the year to pass the most significant labor law reform since the 1930s. And let’s not forget that 73 percent of the public supports the Employee Free Choice Act, which would level the playing field for workers seeking to form unions.

The reason for such support is understandable. Corporate abuses are all too common, and companies can act with impunity against employees who are trying to form unions. Workers who try to exercise their basic freedom to form a union are faced with mandatory meetings, threats of wage or benefit cuts, threats of firings or plant closings and even illegal firings, because of weak law and negligible penalties. That matters to the lives of workers across the country. And even when workers do get through the company-dominated process, more than half wait more than a year for a first contract, and nearly one-third don’t have a contract two years later.

The Employee Free Choice Act has earned the support of small businesses, faith groups, civil rights groups, leading economists and a wide variety of community organizations, who all agree that a strong, progressive country with a healthy economy depends on the ability of workers to bargain for a fair share. Three-quarters of Americans support legislation to make it easier for workers to bargain collectively.

We can and will pass meaningful labor law reform this year. America’s workers can’t wait.