SEIU Convention: Anna Burger On The Employee Free Choice Act
by Todd Beeton, Tue Jun 03, 2008 at 08:46:37 AM EDT
Earlier this morning, Anna Burger, the Secretary-Treasurer of SEIU, spoke to the convention and I wanted to highlight her comments about The Employee Free Choice Act in particular. There is a fairly effective ad campaign on the air right now that is framing the The Employee Free Choice Act as "anti-worker privacy" and uses a Sopranos character to fear-monger about what passing The Employee Free Choice Act would mean for workers. So where's the pro-Employee Free Choice Act ad campaign? Hmm, good question. They simply haven't found the right message yet but there is an acknowledgment that there needs to be one and fast. It is a complex issue, one that's not easily broken down into a one line concept or sound byte and it's hard to explain to people why they should care. Anna Burger today made as good a case as I've ever heard for why we should all care about its passage.
What would the Employee Free Choice Act accomplish?
The Employee Free Choice Act is a simple law that does 3 profound things:
- It says a majority of workers can decide to have a union
- Imposes big penalties on employers who violate worker rights, and
- Gives newly-unionized workers guaranteed first contract through binding arbitration
No government interference. No corporate intimidation. No ridiculous rules and roadblocks set up to block your rights.
And the key reason it is so important:
It is the fuel -- the opening -- for SEIU to change our growth curve from 100,000 to a million or more workers a year.
That in itself, Burger argues, makes the Employee Free Choice Act larger than any one single issue, even more important than healthcare.
We are the leaders of the fight for healthcare. We are the biggest healthcare union in our three nations because we fight for it every single day. It's time that the United States and Perto Rico join our sisters and brothers in Canda and win quality, affordable healthcare for every man, woman and child in 2009!
Let's be straight: we need political leadership, not petty arguments.
We need fundamental change, not incremental thinking.
We demand action.
Healthcare is critical, but having the freedom to join a union -- that's transformational.
The passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, Burger argues, will make the difference between incremental change and transformational change, because it will allow the creation of a movement that will not only demand that change, but enable it. So, the Employee Free Choice Act is more important than healthcare because without it, there is no healthcare reform, or at least not the real reform we want and need. Same goes for every other progressive legislation we hope to pass in the post-Bush era.
Imagine a world where five years after the Employee Free Choice Act is signed into law, SEIU is organizing a million or more workers a year and the labor movement has added 20 million members to its ranks. Through the Employee Free Choice Act we've built a principled, permanent workers movement that will redefine politics for the next century.
Then just imagine what our movement could do:
- A real living wage for every single worker
- Healthcare for every child, guaranteed from birth
- Guaranteed retirement security
- Quality child care everyone can afford
- A tax system that rewards work
- An immigration system that is fair to everyone, everywhere, always
- Environmental policy that puts our planet and our children first.
She's sort of making a process argument here, one that works in a labor setting since it celebrates the power of workers as a movement. How to make the average voter understand how important it is is another question entirely and represents one of the challenges the progressive movement faces.
(disclosure: SEIU is paying for my travel expenses to be here to cover their convention)