Tim Newman, Campaigns Assistant, International Labor Rights Forum
Here at ILRF, one of our major campaign areas is protecting workers' internationally recognized right to organize. We support workers in countries like Colombia and Philippines where there are regular attacks on the fundamental right of workers to join unions and often these attacks involve violence against union leaders.
Here in the U.S., a major battle has been brewing over the right to unionize in the form of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). Today there is a MUST-READ article in the Wall Street Journal about how Wal-Mart and other huge multinational corporations are aggressively fighting the EFCA. Unions and labor rights supporters are mobilizing as well. Before you keep reading to find out more about this fight, PLEASE CLICK HERE to join the 1 Million Mobilization to support the EFCA!
For some background, here is how the AFL-CIO sums up the Employee Free Choice Act:
[T]he current system for forming unions and bargaining is broken. Every day, corporations deny workers the freedom to decide for themselves whether to form unions to bargain for a better life. They routinely intimidate, harass, coerce and even fire workers who try to form unions and bargain for economic well-being.
The Employee Free Choice Act (H.R. 800, S. 1041), supported by a bipartisan coalition in Congress, would level the playing field for workers and employers and help rebuild America’s middle class. It would restore workers’ freedom to choose a union by:
- Establishing stronger penalties for violation of employee rights when workers seek to form a union and during first-contract negotiations.
- Providing mediation and arbitration for first-contract disputes.
- Allowing employees to form unions by signing cards authorizing union representation.
But as the Wall Street Journal article points out, allowing workers a voice at work is a nightmare for companies like the country's largest private employer, Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is organizing mandatory meetings for managers and department heads at their stores all across the country to spread anti-union propaganda and, while not "telling people how to vote," warning their employees that voting for Barack Obama would mean inviting unions in because of his support for the Employee Free Choice Act. [Side Note: check out the Human Rights Watch website for more information about Wal-Mart's history of anti-union action, including clips of anti-union videos Wal-Mart shows employees]
Wal-Mart isn't alone either. Another labor rights abuser, Cintas, is also aggressively fighting the bill. There are also two business-led coalitions called the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (so a democratic workplace means a workplace where workers have no collective voice? -- doesn't sound too democratic to me!) and the Employee Freedom Action Committee. The latter is lead by professional unionbuster Rick Berman. American Rights At Work just released a plethora of new documents and information exposing Berman's record as a high-priced corporate union-buster -- CHECK IT OUT HERE!
Clearly, major companies in the US are going to put their massive resources behind fighting any attempt to let workers have any voice or power on the job. Supporters of workers need to mobilize all our own resources and power to stand up for the right to freedom of association and to join unions. Can you take one minute right now to join one million people across the country in supporting the Employee Free Choice Act? Many unions and organizations are supporting this mobilization. Here are just a few links to send letters supporting this act: AFL-CIO, Change to Win, American Rights at Work and Jobs With Justice among many others.