Things are beginning to look a lot gloomier for proponents of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). Senator Arlen Specter, R-PA, a long time friend of unions recently flip-flopped and announced his opposition to this bill that would make it easier for workers to unionize. Several key Democrats like Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas have also recently defected. Meanwhile, the Chamber of Commerce launched a $1 million ad campaign against EFCA last week claiming the bill would take democracy away from the workplace and allow government to infringe in the daily affairs of business owners.
The SEIU"s response ad refutes some the Chamber's fallacious claims. It then ends with testimonies from two small business owners who discuss the benefits of unions. The organization American Rights at Work, which has launched several ads in favor of EFCA, also point out similar benefits.
All of their ads conclude with the statement: "The Employee Free Choice Act gives workers the freedom to form a union so they can earn better wages, retirement security, and healthcare coverage."
Unfortunately, what is largely missing from such ads are stories of the workers who were harassed, intimidated, retaliated against, and in some cases fired merely for expressing their support for a union. I have been on numerous campaigns where I have seen managers get away with blatant acts of intimidation against union employees, thus creating a climate of fear and coercion that make it difficult for employees to make a real informed decision about unionization.
Recently Jonathan Mann, the song guy who made the "Hey, Paul Krugman" music video put together a video about EFCA, which in its first verse effectively illustrates why there is a need for EFCA better than any politician I have heard.
If I were fired for just thinking a thought
My future threatened 'cause the boss found out about me
Handing pamphlets out in the parking lot
To organize a union that was fair and free
Tell me what country would you say that I
Was livin' in darlin'
You may be surprised to learn that I
Was livin' on your street baby.
The song does not go into great detail about EFCA, however this verse as well as a part of the second highlights management's propensity towards punishing workers for expressing a dissenting voice. Right now, anti-EFCA forces are rallying support for their cause by appealing to the American value of having a secret ballot vote and throwing words out like "card-check." EFCA supporters are then put on the defensive and respond by arguing for the need for unions which will help workers win better pay, health care, etc. It may behoove EFCA supporters to start focusing the discussion not on unions per se, but on people being able to make a choice free from retaliation.
Indeed, firing someone for expressing an opinion should be branded "un-American" and identified as something you would expect from a dictatorial regime. Senators on the fence should be made to realize that if they oppose this bill, they will allow employers to get away with compelling people to make a decision by threatening their job and their pay.
It is unlikely that we can win the support of the public by arguing for "card check" instead of a ballot voting, which is not the real issue anyway. (And just to clarify, EFCA does not take away the secret ballot). However, we can appeal to the public's sense of democratic patriotism and outrage at bullies, by illustrating the need for work environments where employees can make decisions free from harassment at the hands of their employers. As Mann sings, "this kinda thing happens everyday" to working people who live in our communities. EFCA would be a first step to putting an end to this type of un-American activity.You can view Mann's video "A Long Time Coming (The EFCA!)" below: