With the Senate considering dropping from the Employee Free Choice Act the key majority signup rule – whereby workers can choose to unionize with a majority in favor – the head of the 2.5-million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has launched a petition drive urging Congress to support majority signup. The times, so indifferent or hostile to unions, make us nostalgic for Reuben Warshovsky, the organizer in the great, gritty 1979 film, "Norma Rae."
Reuben's speech to the textile workers:
"On October 8th, 1970, my grandfather, Isaac Abraham Warshovsky, age 87, died in his sleep in New York City. On the following Friday morning, his funeral was held. My mother and father attended. My two uncles from Brooklyn attended. And my aunt Minnie came up from Florida. Also present were 862 members of The Amalgamated Clothing Workers and the Cloth, Hat and Cap Makers Union of America -- also members of his family.
In death, as in life, they stood at his side. They had fought battles with him, had bound the wounds of battle with him, had earned bread together and had broken it together. And when they spoke, they spoke in one voice and they were heard. And they were black and they were white and they were Irish and they were Polish and they were Catholic and they were Jews -- and they were one. That's what a union is -- one.
Ladies and gentlemen, the textile industry in which you are spending your lives and your substance, and in which your children and their children will spend their lives and their substance, is the only industry in the whole length and breadth of these United States of America that is not unionized. Therefore, they are free to exploit you, to lie to you, to cheat you and to take away from you what is rightfully yours -- your health, a decent wage, a fit place to work.
I would urge you to stop them by coming over to Room 31 at the Golden Cherry Motel and pick up a union card and sign it.
Yes, it comes from the Bible, according to the tribes of your fathers: "Ye shall inherit." But it comes from Reuben Warshovsky: Not unless you make it happen.