03/02/2007 01:04 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Victory for Workers' Rights

The House of Representatives made history for working families yesterday with the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that will make is easier for workers to choose to join a union. As the daughter of union family -- my father was a Teamster and my mother worked tirelessly for 25 years -- I know that my seven siblings and I would not be where we are today without the wages and other protections my parents earned with the help of their union.

The Employee Free Choice Act provides more protections for workers and requires employers have to recognize a union elected by authorization cards. The current system stacks the deck against workers. If a majority of workers sign authorization cards to join a union, an employer can refuse to recognize that union and force a secret ballot election. Most employers demand the additional step of a secret ballot election. During the weeks it takes to organize this election, the employers often organize mandatory meetings to all but threaten workplace closure or massive layoffs of workers.

Once the secret ballot election is conducted, some pro-union workers may have been illegally fired to scare other workers into voting against the union. These illegal firings happen all too frequently to constituents of mine in the Los Angeles area who want to join a union to earn fair wages and health care to better provide for their families. The Employee Free Choice Act could end much of the bullying, coercion, and harassment of workers who want to join a union, and build common ground, lead to better wages and a stronger workforce.

Unions are vital to the health and strength of our communities, and our workers are the bedrock of our economy. Unionized workers earn 30 percent more and non-unionized workers, and 80 percent have health insurance, as opposed to just 49 percent of non-union workers. In this day and age when the number of women and new immigrants in the work force is increasing, it is important that they become a part of the American fabric. One of the ways to ensure that these new workers are skilled and valued members of the work force is to join a union.

When union workers earn higher wages to support their families, that income helps to strengthen their community. It helps to provide a vibrant economy. It helps to send their children, like me, a daughter of immigrants and a union household, to college and to eventually run for office. This is the American Dream. We should realize that dream by supporting workers and signing the Employee Free Choice Act into law, and I will continue to champion increased wages, right and protections for working families in the 110th Congress.