OPINION | Employee Free Choice Act: Ensuring an economy that works for all Americans


If we want to re-build an economy that works for all Americans — not just the wealthiest — we need to pass the Employee Free Choice Act.

The Employee Free Choice Act aims to reform the nation’s labor laws to restore a level playing field between workers and management. The goal: to make it easier for workers to join unions and bargain collectively for better wages, better health care, and better retirement benefits.

In recent years, we’ve seen the productivity of U.S. workers increase while their share of the gains did not grow — new wealth produced by a growing U.S. economy benefited the wealthy few.

The economy’s tailspin of the past months shows that the model of a low-wage economy that concentrates wealth at the top is irreparably broken.

Our now-shattered economy will rebound only when workers regain jobs, jobs with good wages and benefits.

The advantages of working in a workplace represented by a union are clear: Workers who are members of unions earn 30 percent more than non-union workers. Workers who are members of unions are 52 percent more likely to have health care than non-union workers. And workers who are members of unions are nearly three times more likely to have defined-benefit pensions.

Corporate opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act is simple: CEOs don’t want to more equitably share the wealth their companies produce with the workers who produce that wealth. Corporations and their front groups have stepped up a massive disinformation campaign to oppose the Employee Free Choice Act.

The centerpiece of the campaign: falsely charging that the Employee Free Choice Act will end secret ballot elections in union organizing campaigns. That’s simply not true.

The Act makes it easier for workers to organize, requiring companies to recognize unions when a majority of workers in a workplace sign union authorization cards. Upon request by 30 percent of the workers, the National Labor Relations Board will instead conduct an election.

President Obama supports the legislation, which was reintroduced March 10 in both houses of Congress.

In the U.S. House, the bill (H.R. 1409) was introduced by California Representative George Miller, with 223 co-sponsors, including Minnesota’s Keith Ellison, Betty McCullum, Jim Oberstar, Collin Peterson and Tim Walz.

In the U.S. Senate, the bill (S. 560), was introduced by Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy, with 39 co-sponsors, including Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar.

A Gallup Poll released March 17 reported that a majority of Americans surveyed support “a new law that would make it easier for labor unions to organize workers.” Those poll results are encouraging, but we have much work to do shape the public debate and to pass the Employee Free Choice Act.

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