THE BLOG
04/24/2009 11:03 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

On Tour for the Employee Free Choice Act

From meetings with Democratic state legislators in the Montana state capitol to engaging state political leaders in Denver, Louisiana, Nebraska, Arkansas to town hall meetings all across America to meetings with faith leaders from Montana to Louisiana to phone banks and letter writing gatherings to actions by civil rights leaders to debates with union busters in Alaska, New York and Baton Rouge to a Dr. King memorial in Omaha, Nebraska to rallies and marches in Pennsylvania, tens of thousands of working folks and their allies created the largest and deepest grassroots legislative blitz in American labor history.

We gathered at almost 400 events to send the loudest possible message to the United States Senate: "We demand and expect you to pass the Employee Free Choice Act now." We made 100,000 phone calls and delivered 50,000 handwritten letters. All of this occurred over the last two weeks during the Congressional spring recess.

The American labor movement and corporate America are locked in the biggest, most high stakes legislative fight in two generations.

The Labor Movement is determined to pass the Employee Free Choice Act to restore the freedom of workers to form unions and bargain collectively, to end 30 years of stagnant and declining wages, to strengthen and deepen the middle class and to end the corporate assault on workers when they try to form unions.

Corporations and their right wing allies want to preserve an increasingly untenable status quo: union busting, rampant retaliation against workers trying to organize, the greatest inequity in the U.S. since 1929, a declining and shrinking middle class, an economic crisis created in part by a severe lack of consumer demand, growing poverty, and a severe health care crisis.

I was privileged to spend those two weeks and a third on the road debating the other side, rallying union members and our allies, doing dozens of media interviews, and two debates.

After getting blown off course in a Colorado snow storm, I joined my old friend Jim Hightower to speak at a large and energetic Communications Workers district convention in Denver. Later that night I spoke at two local union meetings.

The next morning I met with progressive Colorado state legislators and leaders of progressive non-profits about the necessity of enacting the Employee Free Choice Act to restore an exit route from poverty. Then on to a great rally in Colorado Springs and a student forum that night in Boulder.

From Colorado to New York to debate two union busters at Hofstra Law School. The Long Island Central Labor Council turned out to cheer me on. We solidly thumped the union busters.

Back on a plan to Nebraska where I spoke to a large IBEW local, then did interviews with the state's three largest newspapers and largest radio station. On Saturday, April 4, we held a commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King who was killed on that date in 1968 helping to lead a struggle of Memphis sanitation workers to organize a union and bargaining collectively with the city. Dr. King left us unfinished business.

On Sunday I flew back over the Great Plains to Helena, Montana. That Monday was the meeting at the state capitol with the Speaker of the House and 30 members of the Democratic Caucus speaking out for the Employee Free Choice Act.

For the next two days we crisscrossed the very large state of Montana to Butte, Missoula, Billings and back to Helena to rally all the leaders of the state building and construction trades unions, other union leaders, faith leaders, students and faculty members in Missoula while doing interviews for all three of the state's largest papers, statewide NPR and TV.

Last week it was Louisiana. On one day, April 15, we rallied the New Orleans labor movement at the Plumbers Hall, did six different radio and newspaper interviews and a 90-minute editorial board meeting with seven reporters and editors of the Baton Rouge daily. Later, the crawfish and Abita beer tasted especially good.

The last day of the tour began with a 45-minute drive-time interview on statewide NPR. We got a surprising number of pro-union, pro-Employee Free Choice Act calls. From there we went to a debate with another union buster hosted by the League of Women Voters. Both debates on the tour were filmed. We hope to get them up on You Tube and The Huffington Post.

Now the recess is over, but the action isn't. The Steelworkers and the Communications Workers and other unions are greatly increasing the heat on Republican Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania. He had been a co-sponsor of the legislation, but recently announced he opposed it after another Republican announced he will challenge Specter in the primary.

I go to Alaska next week, then back to Arkansas.

And union activists across America will keep the heat on.