Reports are piling in from around the country from union members and their allies in the faith, civil rights, small business and environmental communities who are helping advance the Employee Free Choice Act and workers’ freedom to form unions and bargain for a better life.
In Maine, the Sierra Club, along with Bill Murphy, director of the University of Maine’s Bureau of Labor Education, held a press conference to announce that the environmental community is strongly in favor of Employee Free Choice, which they say will ensure workers have a voice in how businesses operate in their communities.
In Fort Collins, Colo., the Rev. Daniel Klawitter of Interfaith Worker Justice, led a community meeting in support of the Employee Free Choice Act that helped raise funds for an area food bank. Union members and members of Working America, the AFL-CIO community affiliate, joined him in supporting the food bank and the freedom to form unions, which Klawitter said was “the most effective anti-poverty program” available to workers.
At the community meeting, Sonny Maestas described his personal experience trying to form a union at his workplace. After working at the company for 20 years, Maestas joined with his co-workers to form a union. Although they won their elections with an overwhelming majority, more than two years later, they still are trying to bargain a contract, an experience many workers around the country endure after forming a union. Maestas said:
“A year is too long, and that’s why I support the Employee Free Choice Act. We need to get that middle class back again, and I think the economy could be on its way back to recovery.”
In Wilkes-Barre, Pa., small business owners are getting involved in the fight. George Zorgo, owner of Zorgo Printing, says the the Employee Free Choice Act isn’t just about workers who form unions—it matters for everyone in the economy:
Small businesses depend on each and every one of their customers. When customers have good, well-paying jobs and aren’t worried about the rising cost of health care, then local businesses do better. Small businesses depend on the middle class for business, and the middle class is supported by jobs that have fair wages and benefits.
In Arkansas, Working America and other allies have gathered more than 10,000 letters and petitions to deliver to Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor. In Louisiana, members of the Steelworkers (USW) signed pro-Employee Free Choice Act petitions this week to Sens. Mary Landrieu and David Vitter, while UAW members in Indiana are delivering letters to Sen. Evan Bayh and other members of Congress in support of the freedom to form unions. The Employee Free Choice Act also took center stage last week at a meeting of working women in Eau Claire, Wis.
Alaska state Rep. Harry Crawford, a retired member of the Ironworkers, is one of the many elected officials across the country supporting the Employee Free Choice Act. Crawford says the legislation will give working families a shot at getting what they deserve:
Without unions, we wouldn’t have the broad middle class that we have today….[Unions are] responsible for all the things we take for granted now, like the eight-hour workday, and having insurance, retirement and a safe and secure system.