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Why Workers Need the Employee Free Choice Act

05.22.08

Why Workers Need the Employee Free Choice Act

http://www.americanrightsatwork.org/employee-free-choice-act/resource-library/why-workers-need-the-employee-free-choice-act.html

The Problem: Employers Silence Workers Who Attempt to Form Unions
Under the current labor law system, employers often use a combination of legal and illegal methods to silence employees who attempt to form unions and bargain for better wages and working conditions. When faced with organizing drives, 25 percent of employers fire at least one pro-union worker; 51 percent threaten to close a worksite if the union prevails; and, 91 percent force employees to attend one-on-one anti-union meetings with their supervisors.

In addition, the system designed to protect workers is severely broken. Laws and enforcement fail to sufficiently protect workers, offering penalties that are too weak to deter violations . For example, an employer found guilty of illegally firing an employee for union activity must only give backpay to that employee—minus whatever he or she earned in the interim. Many employers find the punishment for breaking the law a bargain if firing a pro-union employee scares others from supporting the union. Further, if workers successfully form a union despite such tactics, the employer is allowed to repeatedly appeal the results, which can take years. Such delays weaken union support by inviting more opportunities for employee turnover, harassment, and firings by management.

The Impact: Economic Opportunity Stolen from America’s Working Families
Protecting the right to form unions is about maintaining the American middle class. It’s no coincidence that as union membership numbers fall there are growing numbers of jobs with low pay, poor benefits, and little to no security. More than half of U.S. workers—60 million—say they would join a union right now if they could. Why? They know that coming together to bargain with employers over wages, benefits, and working conditions is the best path to getting ahead. Workers who belong to unions earn 30 percent more than non-union workers, and are 63 percent more likely to have employer-provided health care. Without labor law reform, economic opportunity for America’s working families will continue to erode.

The Solution: Labor Law Reform that Gives Workers a Free Choice and a Fair Chance
A growing, bipartisan coalition of policymakers supports the Employee Free Choice Act, proposed legislation that would ensure that workers have a free choice and a fair chance to form a union. The Employee Free Choice Act would level the playing field by strengthening penalties against offending employers; requiring mediation and arbitration to help employers and employees reach a first contract in a reasonable period of time; and, permitting workers to form a union through “majority sign-up,” a process in which workers present signed authorization cards as demonstration of their choice to belong to a union.

The Results: Employer/Employee Partnerships Are Working at Top U.S. Companies
The provisions of the Employee Free Choice Act mirror successful strategies already in use by industry-leading employers such as Cingular Wireless and Kaiser Permanente. These companies have replaced adversarial relationships pitting employers against workers’ unions with cooperative labor relations models that include voluntary recognition of unions through majority sign-up and fair contracts. At Cingular, for example, over 17,000 employees chose to join the Communications Workers of America in less than a year when the company and union agreed to remain neutral during the organizing drive. The nation’s top wireless carrier and Wall Street darling continues to boost profits and advance a positive labor relations model enabling its union employees to grow.

While many companies would lead us to believe that cutting jobs, slashing wages and benefits, employing temporary and cheap labor, and busting unions are necessary to remain profitable in the global economy, Cingular and others have found another way that works for their bottom lines, their employees, and their valued customers.

Center for Economic and Policy Research study finds unionization substantially increases workers wages

05.22.08

June 2008, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Center for Economic and Policy Research study finds unionization substantially increases workers wages

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsabe@aol.com

REGION, May 18th- According to a new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), a Washington, DC based independent nonpartisan economic think tank, unionization significantly boosts American low-wage workers.

The report, “The Union Advantage for Low-Wage Workers,” was released on May 15th and finds unionization raises the wages of the typical low-wage worker by 20.6 percent. Unions also have a substantial impact on the wages of workers at the middle and top of the wage distribution, but the report found that the effect for low-wage workers was the largest.

For the typical worker in the United States, the earner right in the middle of the national pay scale, unionization raises wages about 13.7 percent, about two-thirds of the impact of unionization on the typical low-wage workers. For the typical high-wage worker, joining a union increased pay about 6.1 percent, or less than one-third of the increase for low-wage workers.

“Unions give the biddest boost to low-wage workers because these are the workers that have the least bargaining power in the labor market. Unionization has a large and measurable impact on the bargaining power, and therefore the wages, of low-wage workers,” said John Schmitt, a Senior Economist at CEPR and the author of the study.

The study found the disproportionate impact of unions on low-wage workers also holds across the 50 states and the District of Columbia. In each state, the union premium was substantially larger for low-wage workers than it was for middle or high-wage workers.

The report analyzed five years of data on sixteen to sixty-four year old workers from the United States Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey for the years 2003 through 2007, the most recent years available.

Over the period covered in the report, 13.8 percent of American workers were either members of a union or covered by a union contract at their workplace. Over the same period, the unionization rate varied from 3.9 percent in North Carolina to 26.4 percent in New York.

Labor Federation conducts annual awards dinner in Northampton

05.22.08

June 2008, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Labor Federation conducts annual awards dinner in Northampton

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsabe@aol.com

REGION, May 5th- The Lehigh Valley Labor Council labor federation held their 47th annual awards dinner at the Northampton Memorial Community Center before more than 200 union members and their families, elected political leaders, political candidates, and Democratic party officials, from throughout the Lehigh Valley on May 3rd.

Lehigh Valley Labor Council President Gregg Potter welcomed everyone that attended and Joe Wilfinger, the Sergeant of Arms of the labor federation, gave the invocation.

Mr. Potter stated he was pleased with the participation of the event and read the names of political community members attending.

Ellen Redline received the annual “William Werkheiser Award.” Ms. Redline is the President of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union Local 1435 and a Vice-President of the local labor federation. Local 1435 is affiliated with AFSCME District Council 88, which represents more than 15,000 workers.

Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner was guest speaker and thanked the organization for being invited to address the group. Mr. Potter stated Jack Wagner’s presentation was inspiring and showed his friendship toward labor.

Capital Blue Cross received the “Labor Appreciation Award” from the organization for their continued involvment with the labor community.

The Lehigh Valley Labor Council is affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).

The local organization was created in 2000 when the Lehigh County Labor Council merged with the Northampton County Labor Council. The organization meets on the third Wednesday of the month.

“I want to take a moment to thank everyone who made the labor council dinner such a success,” stated Mr. Potter.

With primary over, labor getting ready for November election

05.22.08

June 2008, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

With primary over, labor getting ready for November election

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsabe@aol.com

REGION, May 18th- With the Pennsylvania Primary election now over, the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington DC, is looking now at the November’s general election and beginning their political program in Pennsylvania to better educate union members about Senator John McCain’s labor voting record.

Mr. McCain, the expected Republican Presidential candidate for the fall election, will be challenged by Democratic Illinois Senator Barack Obama or New York Senator Hillary Clinton. Mrs. Clinton defeated Mr. Obama in the April 22nd Pennsylvania primary election by nine percentage points.

The AFL-CIO endorsed neither candidate with many of their affiliated unions split on supporting either Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton. There were national unions that supported candidates other than Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton that withdrew from the campaign earlier in 2008.

The Change-to-Win (CtW) labor federation and the majority of their affiliates endorsed Mr. Obama.

Meanwhile, the AFL-CIO plans to conduct their political program throughout Pennsylvania, including the Lehigh Valley, during the summer, despite the Democratic party presidential candidate is likely not to be known until after the Democratic convention in August in Denver.

The program is intended to inform union members about issues pertaining to the November election and how it will effect them and the working people.

With labor divided and the known Democratic party candidate not likely to be known until late summer, the AFL-CIO plans to conduct their political program and contact union members by mail, phone and door-to-door about Senator McCain’s labor voting record, which they state shows he doesn’t support working people, and why the working people shouldn’t vote for him in November.

On May 17th, the Lehigh Valley Labor Council labor federation affiliated unions conducted their first door-to-door labor walk from the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) office on Airport Road in Bethlehem. The United Steelworkers of America (USW) Union Local 2599 in Bethlehem, which is not affiliated with the local labor federation, also began their political program to inform their members and retirees why Senator McCain does not support the working people and their unions.

According to information provided by the AFL-CIO, Mr. McCain’s voting record shows he helped companies send jobs overseas by voting against protecting steelworkers’ jobs from illegal dumping. He also supports privatizing Social Security, putting retirement at risk, and raising the Medicare eligibility age.