We wrote this article before Senator Franken got seated, we are thrilled he just signed on as a co-sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act which is common sense bill to reform outdated labor laws. We hope other Senators will also stand with Nebraskans and pass the bill this year....
"All we wanted were safety shoes." This was the answer cafeteria workers gave when asked why they formed a union at their school. The workers had often asked their managers to provide them with safety shoes, and every time they asked they were told no.
When the organizing election drew near, the trucking company did everything they could to get Doug's co-workers to rally against him. Management made phone calls to workers and issued veiled threats, held closed-door meetings and spread nasty rumors ... all in an attempt to discredit the one worker who had been most vocal in fighting for fair representation.
The same thing happened to Jerry and Bert when they tried to help organize their workplace. Their company promptly hired an anti-worker law firm and soon afterwards forced their co-workers into captive audience meetings where they were all fed empty promises and even emptier threats.
After all that these Nebraskans have seen in their workplace, it's understandable that they might be a bit confused as to when big business decided that they were the true champions of workers' rights. After all, surveys show that, when faced with an organizing campaign, 75 percent of companies hire union-busting law firms, 92 percent force their employees to attend closed-door sessions and 25 percent actually fire at least one union-supporting worker.
And yet, there they are on our televisions and in our papers, big business groups, the Nebraskan Republican party and even state elected officials, claiming to promote and protect "workplace democracy." The target of all these attack ads? The Employee Free Choice Act, which is perhaps the single most important piece of workplace legislation Congress has considered in almost 75 years.
The Employee Free Choice Act in a nutshell: Freedom
What the Employee Free Choice Act will do is simple and straightforward (the entire proposal is only three pages long), and it adheres very closely to a basic principle--that workers should have the freedom to be able to choose whether and how to form a union on their own, without fear of interference from their employer.
In essence, the bill is composed of three parts: (1) allowing workers to form a union through majority petition, (2) creating a fair system of arbitration to ensure that unions and employers work together in negotiating new contracts and (3) imposing meaningful penalties on companies that illegally coerce or fire union-supporting workers.
Penalties would also be levied against unions if they break the law, a fact that is often either left out or misrepresented by opponents of the bill in their efforts to mislead Nebraskans.
What's missing from the bill is the boogeyman that corporations, the Chamber of Commerce and the Nebraska Republican party have invented for their current attack ads, namely, any provision that would endanger a workers' right to a secret ballot. This right is already guaranteed by the 1935 Wagner Act and nothing in the Employee Free Choice Act would affect it in any way.
But, of course, the corporate lobbyists know this already. Like everything else that these Wall Street CEOs do, this current campaign is about nothing but their bottom line. Many companies, both here in Nebraska and across the country, have made billions by ignoring basic workplace protections and slashing benefits and wages to the bare minimum. Invariably, the losers in this arrangement are our working families.
Economic studies suggest that when workers are given fair wages, their communities benefit as a whole. Higher wages mean higher spending, and higher spending means more goods and more services and, most importantly, more jobs to meet this rise in demand. It's for this reason that a recent study by the Center for American Progress predicted that the Employee Free Choice Act could pump as much as $176 million back into Nebraska's economy.
Our 30-second ads: A message from Nebraskans
What if television ads about the Employee Free Choice Act did tell the truth? What if they reflected the real world as experienced every day by hardworking and common sense Nebraskans?
Well, to find out we asked a few of our friends to tell us their story in 30-second ads:
Freedom--Loren Cassidy, electrical worker in Omaha
Dignity--Trish Meuhlenkamp, cafeteria worker in North Platte
"The face of this country is right here. It's not the greed of Wall Street. It's not bailouts and bonus checks. It doesn't rise and fall with the stock market. The real face of our country is us--each of us--and our choices about our future. At first, I had no idea if I wanted to join a union. But here's what I do know, that choice is mine. It wasn't my boss's and it wasn't my friend's. And that's why the Employee Free Choice Act is so important. It's about choice. It's about freedom. It's about each of us, and it's about our country."
"My job lasts longer than 9 to 5. And my work is about more than a paycheck. It's about people, and it's about dignity. And my job isn't unique. Each of us works for more than our title suggests. We choose our work, and we earn our dignity. The Employee Free Choice Act is not about unions or employers, it's not about secret ballots or card check. It's about giving each of us the dignity of a choice ... it's about giving each of us the dignity we deserve."
Rights--Butch and Shirley McGinn, rancher in Anselmo and small business owner in Broken Bow
"You know, this country was built on several things--freedom being one of them. So what we don't get is why people are being fired for exercising that very freedom. If people want to join a union, seems to us that they should have that right. Instead, they are getting fired or bullied. Just doesn't seem right to us, telling people they can either have their rights or their jobs, but they can't have both. The Employee Free Choice Act would give that freedom back to the people to whom it belongs, each of us. It would also put meaningful penalties for anyone that breaks the law--whether it was a union or a business."
These are the stories of the Employee Free Choice Act. You might not see them on your TV, propped up by billions of dollars in corporate money, but you will find them in every corner of our state. Workers and small business owners, nurses and teachers, ranchers and ministers who understand what workplace democracy really means--it means having a free choice and gaining a voice. And that's exactly what the Employee Free Choice Act will do.
Nebraska needs leaders who stand up, not just placeholders who simply stand in. We need leaders who will tell us the truth, not just parrot talking points from outside groups. But we also need you. This bill will only be passed with your help in the grassroots.
Call Senator Johanns and Senator Nelson and tell them why you support the Employee Free Choice Act. Send them a postcard. And tell all your friends to visit http://www.changethatworks.net/... to find out how you can get involved to help workers in our state. Together, we can make this change happen.