Bill Would Restore Workers’ Free Choice to Form or Join Unions to Improve Their Lives
Buffalo, NY - Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) joined Angelo Vellake, President, Area Labor Federation and local labor and community leaders today at a press conference pledging to work for passage of H.R. 800, the Employee Free Choice Act, a critical piece of legislation that will help restore workers’ freedom to form or join unions and to bargain for better wages and working conditions. The bipartisan bill was introduced earlier this month in the House with 230 co-sponsors, including Congressman Higgins.
"Unions have historically given working people a toehold in the middle class. Government statistics show that working men and women who have a union today make 30 percent more than workers who don’t have a union, and are much more likely to have health insurance and retirement plans. This balance of power promotes the well-being of our communities," according to Angelo Vellake.
Recent opinion research shows that the vast majority of Americans support the Employee Free Choice Act. Seventy-seven percent of Americans say it’s important to have strong laws that give workers the freedom to choose to have a union without interference from employers, according to research by Peter D. Hart Research Associates. Sixty-nine percent of voters said they were supportive of the Employee Free Choice Act as a means to help workers level the playing field. Sixty-five percent of the public says it approves of unions, and only 25 percent disapprove.
However, Jim Wagner, President, CWA 1122 pointed out that under the current process for forming or joining unions, employers routinely harass, intimidate and even fire workers for trying to form a union, and current labor law is helpless to stop them. One in five union activists is likely to be fired for union activity, according to a study by the Center for Economic Policy Research. Seventy-eight percent of companies require supervisors to meet one-on-one with employees they directly supervise urging them to vote against the union, according to research by Kate Bronfenbrenner of Cornell University.
Ed Hoock, IUOE Local 17 representative noted that even after workers successfully form a union, they can’t get a contract one third of the time.
The Employee Free Choice Act enables employees to form unions when a majority expresses their decision to join the union by signing authorization cards. It also establishes a third-party mediation/arbitration process when employers and employees can’t agree on a first contract. And it would strengthen penalties for companies that break the law by coercing or intimidating employers.
“This Nation was founded on basic freedoms and the promise of a better life,” said Congressman Brian Higgins. “The current system is broken. The Employee Free Choice Act creates a fair process for workers to organize in a timely manner and reduces very real fears that pro-union action will put their jobs at risk.”