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Andy Stern

Andy Stern

Posted March 10, 2009 | 02:15 PM (EST)

Five Things to Know about the Employee Free Choice Act


Today, the Employee Free Choice Act was introduced in Congress. Want some great reasons to support this bill that you've been hearing so much about? Here's five. (And if you already support it, please contact your Members of Congress and ask them to do the same.)

1. Because more jobs should be good jobs.

Unless you've been living under a rock for the last year, it's no surprise that millions of Americans are out of work, losing their health care or their retirement money, or are otherwise in financial straits. Times are tough. And who's taking this economic crisis on the chin? Well, we are, of course.

Four million people have lost their jobs since the recession began in December 2007. It's not for lack of trying. In terms of productivity, people are working harder than ever-- but American workers still haven't gotten a raise. And while jobs and wages are down, the cost of living continues to rise: The average cost of family health insurance plan will go up to $24,000 by 2016. $24,000!

The Employee Free Choice Act says that workers should have the ability to bargain with their employers for better wages and benefits--like affordable quality health care.

2. It's good for the economy.

One of the biggest reasons for our current economic crisis? People literally don't have the cash they need to buy goods and services--which would in turn help the economy. Higher wages and higher benefits would give workers the purchasing power they need to buy more of the goods and services that this economy produces. According to a February report from the Center for American Progress Action Fund, unionization could pump more than $49 billion into the economy.

But don't take it just from us. Last month, forty leading economists, including three Nobel prize winners, took out a full-page ad in the Washington Post offering their reasons for supporting the bill. In the ad, they argued that one of the main reasons for our economic slump is the "erosion of workers' ability to form unions and bargain collectively," that shifted the wealth of our country from "broadly-shared prosperity" to "growing inequality."

3. Barack Obama loves it, and so do most of you.

Not to mention Joe Biden, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, and majorities in both houses of Congress. And according to recent polling, 73% of the public supports it. Just last week, speaking in front of a labor gathering, President Obama vowed to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, stating,

"I have every confidence that if we are willing to do the difficult work that must be done, we will emerge from these trials stronger and more prosperous than we were before. And as we confront this crisis and work to provide health care to every American, rebuild our nation's infrastructure, move toward a clean energy economy, and pass the Employee Free Choice Act, I want you to know that you will always have a seat at the table."

What's not to love about that?

4. Because CEOs should be helping workers, not hurting them.

Want to get really depressed about your paycheck? Compare it to a CEO's. As a testament to the growing income disparity between CEOs and the workers they employ, look no further than Wal-Mart's former CEO, Lee Scott. Scott earned $15,000 an hour in 2007 while Wal-Mart workers earned just $10.68 an hour. On average, CEOs earn 344 times what their typical employee makes.

And yet, when Goldman Sachs received $10 billion in Wall St. bailout funds, they turned around and spent $6.5 billion on bonuses! If the Employee Free Choice Act passed, workers would have more of an opportunity to share in the prosperity they helped create.

5. Because the other side is really scary.

Or at least, they're trying their hardest to scare us. The corporate interests opposing the Employee Free Choice Act have warned of everything from rioting in the streets to, literally, Armageddon if the bill passes. For a sense of just how extreme the other side has gotten, check out our "scary movie" video here:

Corporate interests are bent on lying about the Employee Free Choice Act - they'd have you believe that the bill means the end of the secret ballot - but nothing could be further from the truth. The Employee Free Choice Act simply gives employees the choice to join unions - not the employers. Right now, workers can join unions through majority sign-up or a secret ballot election, and they can do so under the Employee Free Choice Act, too. The only difference is it will be the employees' choice, not the employers.

But don't take it from me - watch Rachel Maddow destruct this argument:

If you're as fired up as we are, go to SEIU.org and sign up to help. It's time for the Employee Free Choice Act.