In Focus: Protecting the Rights of America’s Worker
Passing the Employee Free Choice Act
America's working men and women built this country into the wealthiest society in the world. But lately they've been missing out on the prosperity they helped create. Our working families are struggling to make ends meet, and our middle class is getting squeezed more and more each day. At the same time, big corporations reap record profits and exert increasing influence on our government.
This is not how things are supposed to be. America's working people must have the opportunity counter the power of business interests by uniting to bargain for better wages and benefits. This is the surest way to guarantee our country's wealth is shared by all.
But the current labor law system is broken. The National Labor Relations Act was designed to protect employee choice on whether to form unions, but it has been turned upside down.
The elections that must be held to form a union are the opposite of democracy. The company has all the power - the power to control the information workers receive; the power to threaten their paychecks and livelihoods; and the power to intimidate, harass, and even fire organizers. This is what workers are currently up against:
- 75% of companies hire consultants or union-busters to fight organizing campaigns1
- 92% of companies force employees to attend closed-door meetings against the union2
- 51% of companies threaten to close plants if the union wins the election3
On top of that, the current penalties are so insignificant that many companies treat them as just another cost of doing business. The result is that an active union supporter has a one-in-five chance of being illegally fired during an organizing campaign.4
The Employee Free Choice Act will fix these problems. It has three key provisions:
- Strengthening penalties for companies that illegally coerce or intimidate employees in an effort to prevent them from forming a union
- Bringing in a neutral third party to settle a contract when a company and a newly certified union cannot agree on a contract after three months
- Establishing majority sign-up, meaning that if a majority of the employees sign union authorization cards, validated by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), a company must recognize the union
These reforms will go a long way toward ensuring every American worker has the freedom to join a union. According to research conducted in December 2006 by Peter D. Hart Research Associates, more than half of nonunion workers in the United States would join a union if they could. But because the current law is stacked against them, just 12% of American workers currently belong to a union.5
Clearly, the will of millions of American workers is being thwarted by weak laws and big corporations that continually exploit them. The result is a huge portion of our workforce who cannot enjoy the benefits of union membership.
And the advantages are clear. Research has shown that compared to nonunion workers, union members
- earn 30% more in wages;
- are 62% more likely to have employer-provided health coverage; and
- are four times more likely to have a pension.6
It's no wonder big business is fighting so hard against the Employee Free Choice Act. They want to continue to prevent workers from choosing to organize into unions, because it will mean larger profits and even bigger pay for their executives. For them, the American way isn't about freedom of choice or sharing the wealth - it's about the bottom line.
But they're not fooling anyone. 77% of Americans recognize the importance of strong laws protecting workers' freedom to form unions.7 The support is there. Now we must channel it into the passing of the Employee Freedom of Choice Act.
4. John Schmitt and Ben Zipperer, "Dropping the Ax: Illegal Firings During Union Election Campaigns," Center for Economic and Policy Research, January 2007,
5. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.
6. Sources: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Union Members in 2006, Jan. 25, 2007; U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Compensation Survey: Employee Benefits in Private Industry in the United States, March 2006; Economic Policy Institute; Employee Benefit Research Institute, May 2005.
7. Peter D. Hart Research Associates, survey for the AFL-CIO, December 2006.