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Workers From Across Nation Lobby Congress to Get Economy Back on Track With Employee Free Choice Act
Rep. Miller, Sen. Harkin introduce bill to make it easier for workers to bargain with employers for better wages and healthcare
WASHINGTON - March 10 - On Tuesday, Congressman George Miller (D-CA), chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill to make it easier for workers to bargain with their employees for better wages and healthcare. At the same time, hundreds of workers from across the country descended on Washington to lobby their own Members of Congress on the importance of the bill. The workers, who represented more than 30 states and a number of unions, related their personal stories of being fired or harassed when they attempted to form a union, in addition to how forming a union could improve their lives and the products and services they provide.
"Right now, millions of working families are struggling-losing their jobs, their health care, and their retirement benefits. They're working harder than ever before, yet they're not able to share in the prosperity they helped create," said Anna Burger, SEIU Secretary-Treasurer. "To really fix this economy, we must rebuild the middle class. The solution is simple: create good jobs that support a family, so they buy more products and put money back into our economy. That's what the Employee Free Choice Act will do."
Congress is expected to take up the legislation, which has the support of President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary Solis and majorities in both houses of Congress, sometime this session.
The Employee Free Choice Act seeks to accomplish three simple goals:
* It restores the option of "majority sign-up," in addition to elections, to ensure that workers, not employers decide how to form a union. That is, when a majority of workers sign cards saying they want to form a union, this legislation levels the playing field so they have a fair chance to do so;
* It creates meaningful penalties for employers who break the law to harass or fire workers;
* It ensures that workers have a fair chance at winning a contract guaranteeing their wages and benefits.
All day Tuesday, workers shared their stories of forming unions with their Members of Congress and participated in a hearing from the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee on the importance of unions in building the middle class.
Testifying before Congress, SEIU 32BJ member Kelly Badillo related how his union helped him and his family get back on their feet in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 tragedy. "My story exemplifies that businesses and unions can work together for the benefit of hardworking Americans like me. My daughters are grown and have jobs of their own, but I can only hope they can enjoy a strong voice on the workplace like I have had," said Badillo.
Last week, the Center for Economic Policy Research, an independent research organization for economic and social issues, released a report showing that the number of workers who were illegally fired when they tried to form a union had risen sharply in the past decade. In 2007, the most recent year for which data is available, 30 percent of union election campaigns had an illegal firing.