5/28/08

Rep. Jason Altmire, Pennsylvania DINO

Related story: "Public opinion survey on card-check"

Democrat wants to end secret-ballot union elections

What is at stake in passing the historic legislation known as the Employee Free Choice Act, bill H.R. 800 in the House of Representatives and S. 1041 in the Senate, is nothing less than the survival of the middle class. With its passage, the positive effect to our struggling working class and dwindling union membership would be felt far and wide.

According to AFL-CIO statistics nearly 60 million workers have said they would form a union if given the chance. In addition, nearly 77 percent of Americans say they support the strong laws that give workers the freedom to make their own choice about union representation.

The Employee Free Choice Act puts the power of “real” choice back into the hands of workers. Its provisions would remove the undue influence employers have and eliminate the all-out assault waged on workers while organizing. When a majority of workers sign authorization cards in support of a union and are certified, they have union representation. This method of union certification is known as “card-check”.

First contract mediation and arbitration would be mandated under the new act. If after 90 days of bargaining, either the workers or the employer can request the intervention of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS). If the FMCS is unable to bring the parties to an agreement after 30 days of mediation, then the dispute may be referred to binding arbitration and the results of the arbitration will be binding on the parties for two years. In addition, EFCA would stipulate stronger penalties for employer violations while workers are attempting to organize or are seeking a first contract.

EFCA legislation, in contrast to current labor law, would no longer allow employers to draw out the certification process. Currently, workers are subject to prolonged abuse and relentless anti-union propaganda during working hours. By the time workers have the ability to cast a vote employers have in many cases intimidated workers into submission. Even those who are lucky enough to certify a union many employers refuse to bargain in good faith and refuse to settle first contracts.

The hypocrisy of corporate America is that contracts spelling out pay, health and retirement benefits are good for CEOs and top executives but not their employees. Workers are psychologically assaulted and intimidated into thinking they should reject the notion of forming a union and that collective bargaining would somehow yield them less than what they currently have.

For workers fortunate enough to enjoy union membership and contracts that provide industry leading wage and benefit packages, the stakes are very high. Without the security a union contract offers, many of us would fall into a devastating financial downward spiral. Loss of healthcare, retirement and job security would be the norm. Labor laws that work for corporations instead of workers have a direct effect on our ability to bargain good and fair contracts for our existing members and newly organized members alike. Looking long-term current labor law’s negative effects have the real potential to be devastating to our way of life.

The United States at one time was the world leader with respect to workers rights and bargaining rights. We have sadly lost our leadership post with fewer than 8 percent of private sector workers represented by unions. Non-union workers face an unrelenting barrage of intimidation and harassment from their employers. Many of these workers pay the ultimate price, being fired illegally, simply for supporting their union.

Labor Unions have been working hard to make EFCA legislation a reality for millions of workers across America. Strong support from newly elected officials in Congress on March 1, 2007 finally passed the legislation in the House of Representatives by a (241) yes to (185) no vote. Of the 19 members of the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation, 11 of 11 Democrats and only 1 of 8 Republicans voted in favor of the legislation. (See Pennsylvania’s Roll Call vote on page 6). As a result, late last month the Employee Fee Choice Act was introduced in the U.S. Senate – with support from 47 Senators, including Senator Robert Casey of Pennsylvania as a primary co-sponsor.

Our members can make a real difference in this important fight for worker rights. There are 53 remaining Senators that we need to tell to get on board with this important and historic legislation. Arlen Specter R-PA has not yet signed on to the bill. He needs to hear the reasons why he should directly from you. You can call him directly at (1-800-774-8941) to tell him The Employee Free Choice Act would put workers on a more level playing field with their employers. Tell Senator Specter to get serious about bringing labor law into the 21st Century – and bring more of working America into the middle class.

If we are successful in our efforts we could put a stop to vanishing jobs, health care benefits and the continued erosion of retiree security. Increased union membership has historically correlated to better and more secure jobs, increased pay, increased access to pension plans and health benefits. With the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act we have the ability to restore the respect and dignity to workingmen and women of America.

The Roll Call Vote From the Congressional Delegation of Pennsylvania on the Employee Free Choice Act

A YES Vote is the Right Vote for our Members
A NO Vote is the Wrong Vote for our Members

FOR

Jason Altmire – D
Robert Brady – D
Christopher Carney – D
Mike Doyle – D
Chaka Fattah – D
Tim Holden – D
Paul Kanjorski – D
Patrick Murphy – D
John Murtha – D
Allyson Schwartz – D
Joe Sestak – D
Timothy Murphy – R

AGAINST
Charles Dent – R
Philip English – R
Jim Gerlach – R
John Peterson – R
Joseph Pitts – R
Todd Platts – R
Bill Shuster – R

(district13.cwa-union.org)

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