NAACP-Supported Employee Free Choice Act To Help Protect The Rights Of Workers Who Choose To Form Unions To Come Up In The U.S. Senate


The Issue:
Supporters of H.R. 800, the “Employee Free Choice Act”, hope to bring this vital legislation up for a vote in the full Senate this week, when they meet for a brief “lame duck” session before adjourning for the year.  Because this legislation has already passed the House of Representatives (on March 1, 2007, by a margin of 241 yeas to 185 nays) it needs to pass the Senate and be signed by the President to become law.  If it does not pass the Senate prior to adjournment at the end of this week, it will die and need to begin the legislative process all over again when the 111th Congress begins in January, 2009.  H.R. 800, the “Employee Free Choice Act  will make sure workers have a fair chance to exercise their democratic right to choose a union by making it easier for a union to act as a mediator for workers if the majority of workers have provided authorized signatures indicating that they want the union to act as their representative, and increasing penalties for violations against employees who are trying to organize a union.

Sadly, on June 26, 2007, the United States Senate failed to get “cloture”, or end debate on The Employee Free Choice Act (60 votes out of 100 are needed for cloture; the vote was 51 yeas to 48 nays).  Thus, the bill is stalled in the Senate until at least nine Senators are willing to change their vote.

Currently, union workers earn 26% more in median weekly wages than non-union workers; unionized women earn 31% more than their non-union counterparts, and black union workers earn 29% more than non-union African Americans.  Furthermore, 75% of union workers have health benefits, compared to 49% of non-union workers.  69% of union workers have short-term disability coverage, compared to 30% of their non-union counterparts.  Finally, 82% of union workers get life insurance, compared with 51% of non-union workers.

The impact of unions – ensuring that all working Americans are treated well and share in the prosperity – cannot be overstated.  Despite the continuing strength and advocacy power of unions, however, some employers continue to treat workers poorly, not paying them a fair wage or providing them with necessary benefits:  the purchasing power of workers’ wages is 5% below where it stood 30 years ago.  CEO pay has continued to rise and is currently more than 1,000 times the earnings of the average worker.  The richest 13,000 US families have nearly as much income as the poorest 200 million combined.  And some employers continue to fight the legitimate organization of unions.  70% of American employers in manufacturing threaten to close the plant if workers choose a union.  Furthermore, in the 1950’s, when 30% of workers belonged to unions, only a few hundred workers suffered retaliation for trying to organize a union; in 1969, the number or workers suffering retaliation was just over 6,000 and by the 1990’s more than 20,000 workers each year were victims of discrimination when they tried to organize a union.

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