Labor Pains and EFCA

Clearly, the new EFCA legislation will be a step forward for workers in America but any delusions that workers will be close to a level playing field are misplaced. There are simply too many flaws in our free market system to overcome with a bandage solution while ignoring the real structural problems.

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John Sweeney: "We will pass the Employee Free Choice Act"

John Sweeney, President of the AFL-CIO, said 2 years ago:
"Today, the Employee Free Choice Act has 208 co-sponsors in the House, including 10 Republicans, and 42 in the Senate -- and we will pass it while George Bush is in office."John Sweeney at National Press Club 1/18/2006

Since then the EFCA, which adds penalties for labor violations, has passed the House, but has stalled in the Senate over a Republican blockade over a small change in "card check" organizing campaigns and has been abandoned by Democrats and Unions until 2009.

Currently employees can optionally organize or decertify a union using signature cards instead of secret ballots. Business groups only want to be able to decertify unions using card check, calling organization by signature cards "undemocratic" and condemning the entire EFCA as "Orwellian named." If the Republican position sounds like a double standard, thats because it is.

Sweeney and his Democrat allies in the Senate could easily shift the debate to just enforcing current labor law. Instead, they are letting the Republicans have a free ride this November by keeping the general public confused about technical aspects of forming a union.

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Organizing workers in the pre-EFCA era

On Tuesday, Republicans in the Senate killed a massive anti-poverty program known as the Employee Free Choice Act.  EFCA would have been a major shift in collective bargaining law, which would have helped millions of workers band together for mutual aid by forming unions.  This law would have helped reverse the tide of lowering standards of living and rising job insecurity.

Republicans killed EFCA for now, but I am quite confident that the bill will become law in the near future.  Democratic prospects for President and for the Senate look very good for 2008, and I'd be willing to bet that we will soon see EFCA enacted.

But what do we do between now and then?  Union membership (which held steady in 2005) continued its decline in 2006.  We can't wait for EFCA to become law; unions must regain their old strength without it.

This was the question Jonathan Tasini posted on the Working Life blog (albeit, in a somewhat different frame) on Wednesday, and many others have since followed suit.  Below, I've laid out my response.  Here is my plan for revitalizing the labor movement in the pre-EFCA era.

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Filibusters and polar bears: the little hypocrisies of Congressional life

A couple of Kossacks point up (though not intentionally) the advantages to politicians (and their supporters) of a short memory.

One guy rails against GOP obstructionism - balking EFCA (HR 800) by denying cloture and the ethics and 9/11 Commission bills by preventing a UCA on the appointment of conferees.

[The 9/11 Commission, I see - that was HR 1 and S 4; ethics, I don't: S 1 passed the Senate, but (so far as I'm aware) there was never a companion bill in the House (in the 100 Hours, what the House passed was a resolution (H Res 6) making changes to the House Rules). So - how can we be ready for a conference if the House hasn't passed a companion bill to S 1?]

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'08 Before Workers Have a Choice

The Republican minority's blockage of a cloture vote to allow a full Senate vote on the Employee Free Choice Act is an insult to democracy.  The bill would have provided workers with the choice of a majority sign-up card check or secret ballot election as the means to choose union representation.  The bill had broad bi-partisan support in the House, but today was straight party line, except for Arlen Specter.

 With so many Republicans up for election in '08, it will be critical that the Democratic majority is substantially increased if employees are going to be able to act effectively against stagnant wages, soaring health care costs, declining pensions security and increasingly unsafe workplaces.

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