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Mary Beth Maxwell Headshot

Playing Offense for the Employee Free Choice Act

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This week, American Rights at Work launched a substantial nationwide television ad campaign. It emphasizes the fact that far too often, CEOs won't willingly pay their employees a decent salary and provide health care - and through the Employee Free Choice Act, workers will more easily form unions and bargain for better pay and benefits.

In the wake of an unprecedented attempt by anti-union corporate special interests to mislead the American public on unions, and particularly on the Employee Free Choice Act, it's time to set the record straight. The ad is part of a broad, coordinated effort to champion the legislation and facilitate its passage in Congress.

Why? Americans of all backgrounds are tired of watching their paychecks shrink, the cost of gas and health care skyrocket, and domestic jobs sent overseas. They are also suspicious of the CEOs and corporate interest groups who got us into this mess and jumped ship with taxpayer-funded golden parachutes. They are hungry for measures that strengthen the middle class and ease the economic crunch on America's workers. In fact, a recent poll conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates found that 60 percent of voters think the Employee Free Choice Act should be enacted, and nearly one-third (31 percent) strongly believe it should be a priority for Congress.

Adding new meaning to the term "chutzpah," corporate special interests now accuse unions and the Employee Free Choice Act as a threat to our economic livelihood. Quite the opposite is true. When workers have the ability to more easily form unions and bargain for better pay and benefits, their purchasing power and financial stability increase, strengthening consumer demand and benefiting businesses.

Corporate special interests also claim that if passed, the bill will open the door for unions to intimidate workers. Putting aside the laughable assertion that big businesses are sudden champions of workers' rights, their rhetoric doesn't hold up against the facts. Anti-union employers are the largest source of intimidation in the current union organizing system, and they do not want to lose the upper hand they have in scaring workers out of supporting a union. Workers who form unions through National Labor Relations Board elections are twice as likely (46% to 23%) as those using majority sign-up to report management coercion. A recent study found fewer than one in 20 workers who signed a card with a union organizer reported that the presence of the organizer made them feel pressured to sign the card.

Reform is clearly needed, and as public support for the Employee Free Choice Act continues to grow, anti-union forces are scared. It's no wonder: giving up unbridled power is never easy. Lawmakers must look beyond CEOs for solutions to our economic woes - those solutions also need to come from the workers and their advocates who keep our country running.

In 2007, a bipartisan majority passed the Employee Free Choice Act in the House of Representatives, and although it had majority support in the Senate, a small group of Senators blocked its passage with a filibuster. Fortunately, the political climate has changed, and the tide for workers' rights is turning in our direction. Our recent national election yielded an even more worker-friendly House, Senate and a President-elect who has promised to sign the legislation into law. That's why we are continuing our efforts to educate both the public and lawmakers on why the need for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act is urgent. Americans struggling to make ends meet can't afford to wait for change - it must happen now.