The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Alison Omens / Zack Pesavento 202-637-5018

On International Human Rights Day, Workers Across the Country Mobilize on Employee Free Choice Act

Workers call for freedom to form unions, bargain for a better life


Across the country, union volunteers are speaking to workers at hundreds of worksites to discuss the importance of passing the Employee Free Choice Act as a key to rebuilding the middle class. The leaflet mobilization includes a call to reach out to elected officials and allies on the positive community impact of the legislation. Participants are detailing what the Employee Free Choice Act will do to level the playing field between workers and corporations and restore workers' choice on how to form unions in their workplaces.

International Human Rights Day commemorates the signing of the U.N. Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which enshrines the freedom to organize and bargain as one of four fundamental freedoms for workers. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the declaration.

"International Human Rights Day is an opportunity for workers to highlight just how far we have to go to restoring the freedom of workers' to form unions and bargain for a better life," said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. "In the midst of the economic crisis, workers need the freedom to bargain for healthcare and retirement security as CEOs walk away with million dollar holiday bonuses."

Under the current system, employers routinely harass, intimidate and even fire workers for exercising their freedom to form unions and bargain for a better life. Recent research from Cornell University has shown that, in one out of four union election campaigns, at least one worker is fired for supporting unionization while current labor law is powerless to prevent it.

The Employee Free Choice Act would restore a sense of balance to the workplace by providing employees, not corporations, the choice of how they want to form a union through the option of majority sign-up. The legislation also increases penalties for companies that violate workers' freedom while trying to form a union and requires that once workers indicate they want a union, they will get a contract.

In recent years, advocates for workers' freedom have used International Human Rights Day as an opportunity to highlight the long way to go in restoring and establishing workers' freedom of association. In 2005, eleven Nobel Peace Prize recipients, including President Carter, Lech Walesa, founder of the Polish Solidarnosc movement, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu signed "A Global Call for Human Rights in the Workplace" that states:

"We are deeply gratified that some of the world's most recognized and esteemed advocates for peace and social justice have joined together to promote workers' rights as a major international human rights issue. It is incumbent upon our elected leaders in the U.S. to make a firm, unequivocal commitment to protect workers' rights' to organize unions and engage in collective bargaining and set an example for the rest of the world to follow."

For more information on the Employee Free Choice Act or to speak to workers who've been impacted by the current system, contact the AFL-CIO Media Outreach Department at 202-637-5018.

The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) works tirelessly to improve the lives of working people. We are the democratic, voluntary federation of 56 national and international labor unions that represent 12.5 million working men and women.