On February 4, 2009, 4,000 workers rallied on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC and began to deliver the cards, petitions and signatures of one and a half million Americans demanding the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act.
On a bitterly cold day, led by the AFL-CIO and the United Steelworkers and its President Leo Gerard, workers came to tell the Congress what hell corporations put us through when we try to organize unions, how workers are fired, intimidated and retaliated against when they try to get a voice at work, and that our economy cannot be fixed until we pass the Employee Free Choice Act and workers can freely form unions and bargain for better lives for their families, bargain for a way out of poverty and for a stronger, deeper, larger middle class.
It will take a huge demand, a million and a half voices, and the largest grassroots legislative mobilization ever, to win the Employee Free Choice Act and restore balance to an economy ruined by deregulation, obscene greed, a fetish for disastrous free market economics, and 30 years of failed, now completely discredited trickle down economics.
All the forces of our failed economics and engineers of this recession want to save the status quo and keep things just as they are. The Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers and Grover Norquist and John McCain and all of corrupt corporate America will do anything to stop the Employee Free Choice Act, while they couldn't move fast enough to shovel $700 billion to bail out the entire financial industry.
Our government is in the process of releasing the second $350 billion of the $700 billion the Congress approved a couple of months ago to bail out the banks and financial industry.
The Republicans in Congress, for the most part, classically top-down worship the failed free-market fashion and want to save the economy by saving those at the top at the expense of everyone else. The $700 billion bailout for the banks and the rest of the financial industry couldn't be allocated fast enough without any study or oversight or accountability. Now those same Republicans howl about anything in President Obama's stimulus plan other than more and more tax cuts while they promise to stop the Employee Free Choice Act, binding working families into poverty, starving and squeezing the middle class.
Economists across the ideological spectrum know that the fundamental crisis in our economy is a lack of demand, the loss of buying and consuming power resulting from 30 years of wage stagnation and decline.
Economic thinkers from Paul Krugman to Robert Reich to Jared Bernstein to Dean Baker and many others have all said that the Employee Free Choice Act is an effective and important way to restore collective bargaining and wage growth stimulating demand and consumption.
But the radical rightwing, their Republican Members of Congress, and corrupt corporate power will all continue to threaten supporters of the Employee Free Choice Act, lie about its provisions, spend hundreds of millions of dollars on TV ads to obfuscate or obliterate the truth about the legislation and its role in reviving our economy.
That is why the 4,000 worker rally at the Capitol and the delivery of one and a half million cards and signatures only presage the latest grassroots legislative campaign in history that organized labor and its allies will mount in the next few months.
The broad coalition for a more just America is lining up behind the legislation and mobilizing its constituencies from the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council to community organizations like ACORN to a broad spectrum of people of faith to the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and the NAACP and hundreds more.
The labor movement led by the AFL-CIO is pivoting from the Million Worker Demand to grassroots mobilization across America determined to generate hundreds of thousands of handwritten letters, phone calls and face-to-face meetings with Members of Congress.
President Obama and change won the election. Change is what we will get.