Huffpost Homepage
THE BLOG

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Art Levine Headshot

Wall Street Attack Ad, Grass-Roots Populism Sparks New Push for Employee Free Choice Act (VIDEO)

Posted: Updated:

Is anyone in America more hated than the CEOs of greedy financial firms and banks who have wrecked the world economy?

That helps explain why the union movement is harnessing populist rage to help pass the Employee Free Choice Act . Yesterday, American Rights at Work, joined by Change to Win and the AFL-CIO, launched a seven-figure national ad campaign targeting greedy corporations that are also blocking workers' rights.

The new TV ad, building on a grass-roots drive with over 350 events in key states and districts during the Congressional recess, explains how greedy corporations aren't just ripping off taxpayers but trying to block workers rights, with the theme: "Don't Let Them Get Away With It.." Take a look:

The ad supplements a wave of grass-roots activism around the legislation (see 1900 videos of workers and progressives seeking change here).

And it comes at a time when there's growing unity among competing union organizations over the need for political action and support for the Employee Free Choice Act (marked by a new multi-union coordinating committee), and, even with the defections of Senators Arlen Specter and Blanche Lincoln, there are fresh efforts underway to craft a compromise bill that would win over moderates without sacrificing workers' rights. The American Prospect's Tim Fernholz reports:

This morning, I spoke with Alison Omens of the AFL-CIO, who argued that the battle over the legislation is far from over. She characterized the statements of opposition from both Lincoln and key Republican Sen. Arlen Specter as "little bumps in the road" and noted that both are open to supporting a modified bill. How will that shape up?

"We support the key principles of the Employee Free Choice Act, which is workers' freedom to choose how to form a union, real penalties for companies that violate the law, and creating a solution that gives companies incentive to bargain in good faith. We're still moving towards that, and we still think that is going to happen, and it's going to happen this year...."

I also spoke this morning to a Democratic Senate aide familiar with the negotiations surrounding the bill, who told me that discussions with several offices were ongoing, but the parties aren't ready to talk publicly about what's on the table and what's off the table. On the labor side, Omens emphasized that a lot of work is going on in states and districts across the country to gin up grass-roots support for the bill, with hundreds of events and a new ad buy from the pro-worker advocacy group American Rights at Work....

We've arrived at the negotiating table. With Labor and its Democratic allies in the Senate adjusting the bill to lure a few moderates back on board, some kind of legislation will be passed to level the playing field for workers to organize this year. [Emphasis added.] The question now is how much the bill will be watered down to get it over the filibuster hump with moderates like Lincoln and Specter back on board. The good news? Almost anything is better than the status quo.

A new article in The Hill polls union and business leaders about the bill's prospects, and underscores why some of the country's top union leaders are still confident of the bill's passage, given the reality of today's political landscape and the history of reform initiatives. John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, observed:

We're confident that major labor law reform is going to pass in 2009. This legislation has more support than ever, including support from President Obama, Vice President Biden, the leadership in Congress, and 73% of the American public.

The Employee Free Choice Act is going through the same Congressional process that every bill does. A bill is introduced and then Congress works through the process of committees, amendments, and debates and almost always the final bill is different from when it started.

The need for the legislation remains overwhelming, as a worker is fired or disciplined every 18 minutes, according to the American Worker Project of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, for just trying to support a union.

It's little wonderr that progressives such as author Barbara Ehrenreich, along with thousands of workers, are arguing that both economic justice and recovery require union rights. The author of Nickel and Dimed says flatly "there would be no such category as 'the working poor'' if workers could organize for better wages and benefits." In just over a minute, she explains why she supports the legislation after appearing at a pro-Employee Freee Choice Act event at the University of Maine, home state for two moderate Republicans, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, who will be lobbied hard in the weeks ahead. Take a listen: