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February 08, 2007

Labor and the Benefits of Democratic Control of Congress

I remember hearing liberals sometimes say in the 90's say that there was no difference between the Democrats and the Republicans.  (Hard to believe that a decade later, given how much that difference has shown up.)  I used to say, "Look down to the second or third layers.  That's where it really shows up."

Well, here's a wonderful example.

The Employee Free Choice Act, wending its way through the House as H.R. 800 with 231 House co-sponsors, would restore the freedom of workers to choose a union.  As many as 60 million workers have said they would join a union if they could.  However, a whole set of laws introduced over the last 70 years, have allowed corporations to harass and intimidate workers and prevent them from forming unions.  Even though its theoretically legal to form unions, it often takes years for appeals to be heard by either labor boards or courts. 

Congressman George Miller of California, who introduced the bill, says:

Our broken union election system allows employers to harass, intimidate, reassign, and fire workers who support a union. This week, I introduced legislation that would enable workers to make a free and fair choice about whether to form a union. The Employee Free Choice Act is simple: it says that when a majority of workers sign cards authorizing a union, they get one, period.

The Bush administration is spending lives and dollars to try to bring democracy to other countries. It's time we had a little democracy in workplaces here at home.

Tula Connell, writing on labor at Firedoglake, says that middle-class workers, whose pay, benefits and working conditions are not improving for them as expected.  She quotes AFL-CIO Organizing Director Stewart Acuff:

[There is a] direct correlation between 25 years of stagnant, flat-lined wages and the assault on unions. Forty-seven million of us are without health care and 40 million with inadequate health care, [and] 20 percent more of us [live] in poverty now than when this decade started.

By leveling the playing field for workers seeking to form unions, the Employee Free Choice Act will improve the wages, working conditions and job security for workers who want to sign on.

Passage of this bill may well encourage a huge number of new workers to organize, which would both improve the lives of millions of workers and also increase the forces of support for Democrats and Democratic policies.  It's a to-fer.

Connell says that the bill is very likely to pass in the House and may encounter some resistance in the Senate but there too, they are making inroads. 

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 8, 2007 at 11:55 PM in National and International Politics | Permalink


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