Labor's Voice for Change (33) May 7, 2009

E-Mails Alone Will Not Gain Passage of EFCA;
Only Bold, Attention-Getting Action Will Do It

By Harry Kelber

It was a sad day for labor unity when Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, broke ranks and virtually abandoned the fight for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, legislation that the AFL-CIO and Choose to Win consider vital for any serious campaign to recruit millions of unorganized workers.

In an interview with The Washington Post on April 20, Stern suggested that unions should seek an “alternative” to EFPC and abandon their insistence on a “card check” provision in the bill before Congress. That bill would make it easier — and safer — for a worker to join a union by signing an authorization card.

Stern said there are ways to “level the playing field,” without giving unions the option of bypassing secret elections. He said one option might be “shortening the window before elections are held, thus giving employers less time to pressure workers.”

(Stern’s suggested “option” is phony, because employers don’t need any time at all to pressure their employees that they can — and will — fire any of them that show an interest in joining a union.)

President Obama, who promises to sign an EFCA law, says he would like to see a “compromise” agreement between employers and unions on this legislation. In mid-January, speaking on this issue, Obama said: “other options — options that could accommodate the ‘legitimate concerns’ of the Republicans and employers — should be explored.”

(How, Mr. President, can you compromise a basic right to join any organization that is enjoyed by every American — except by working people? And why should your administration allow employers to have the authority to deny a right to their workers that they themselves enjoy?)

To Win EFCA, Let’s Use the Power of Our 16 Million Members

Labor’s campaign for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act is in trouble. Despite the bombardment of congressional legislators with tons of e-mails and an expensive advertising blitz, it will be difficult to reach the 60 Senate votes to prevent a filibuster of EFCA.

Senator Dianne Feinstein and a small group of Democrats have indicated they won’t support EFCA, and Larry Summers, the President’s chief economic adviser, is a vigorous opponent of the bill. Stern’s willingness to abandon card check has started to create a defeatist momentum about the fate of the measure.

Still, EFCA can be won. But it will take inspiring leadership and an extraordinary effort on the part of union members. To get the necessary votes, we must convince Congress of labor’s strength, rather than beg for their help because of our weakness.

The San Francisco Labor Council is to be commended for calling a 24-hour vigil at the city’s federal building on May 6-7 to demand that Sen. Dianne Feinstein return to her original support of EFPC.

* * * * *

The labor movement and its members are facing their moment of truth. If unions won’t be able to serve the needs of the American people without the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act — if unions will shrink in size and power without EFCA, then extraordinary actions must be taken to persuade Congress to act favorably on this legislation.

We suggest that continuous demonstrations, be held at every Labor Department building throughout the country, including sit-ins, until the Employee Free Choice Act becomes a reality.

Any better ideas?

Article 34 of “Labor’s Voice for Change” will be posted on Tuesday, May 12, 2009.