Mar 1, 2007
A very important piece of legislation for the dignity, protection and safety of workers is being considered by the U.S. House of Representatives.
HR 800, the Employee Free Choice Act, would allow workers to organize a union free of an employer’s intimidation, free from fear of being fired and free from retaliation. The bill was introduced by U.S. George Miller, D-CA, on Feb. 5, and it has bipartisan support with 233 co-sponsors.
The bill would allow employees at a worksite who want a union to simply sign a card clearly indicating support for a union, and the company is required to recognize the union. Under the current law, if the threats and actual firings and intimidation don’t work and the majority of the workers sign up for the union anyway the company can simply veto that decision and call for an election. Then the real intimidation begins, and the organizers are fired. According to a pro-union group called Change to Win, more than a quarter of companies going through the union certification process illegally fire pro-union workers and, 34 percent of U.S. companies coerce workers into opposing the union with bribes and favoritism.
The EFCA also addresses companies simply refusing to bargain in good faith and dragging their feet until workers must come back to work or take what ever is offered or starve. If the company and union are not able to reach agreement within 90 days, either party may ask the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) to step in. If after 30 days of mediation the FMCS cannot resolve the dispute, it gets referred to an arbitrator whose ruling is binding for two years.
The EFCA also protects those workers who were targeted by anti-union employers who fire them for union activities. There are currently no consequences for a company who illegally fires an employee who supports the union. The new law will require the National Labor Relations Board to take legal action to immediately reinstate workers fired for union activity. Companies that punish or fire employees for lawful union activity would have to pay triple damages.
Unions are just as important now as they were when unions first began organizing workers under the threat of death and injury. Unions are not just about wages. It’s about better benefits, a safe working environment, unfair labor practices and better training for the workers to name just a few. Every single worker in the U.S. benefits from the safety wages, safety measures and benefits that were hard won by unions.
Michigan has a rich history in labor, and some of the most important battles in union history have been waged here. Some of those examples are the Battle of the Overpass in Dearborn in May of l937, the Flint Sit-Down Strike in 1936 and the bloody battle to organize the Republic Steel plant in Monroe in 1935.
Call your U.S. Representative in Congress and tell them to vote for the Employee Free Choice Act.
UPDATE: Today the House passed the bill by a vote of 228-183. A great victory for workers everywhere.