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State Lawmakers to Weigh in on Federal Union Laws

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 By Jim Wishner/Chris Thomas, Contact
March 5, 2007


Minnesota lawmakers weigh in today on a major matter for workers and labor unions. A State Senate committee takes up a resolution in support of what's called the "Employee Free Choice Act." Rick Varco with the Minnesota Service Employees International Union says the federal plan, which passed the U.S. House last week, brings balance back to the workplace.

"It increases the penalty for corporations that fire workers during an organizing campaign. This is about leveling the playing field between workers and big corporations."

Varco believes there is plenty of evidence of companies cracking down on workers wanting to unionize. Opponents say the bill will pressure employees to sign up, by eliminating the need for a secret election. But according to Varco, the proposed law protects workers who try to join a union.

"In one out of four organizing drives, a union member is fired for trying to organize a union. And, the company pays very little penalty for doing that. So, many of them have decided simply that they're going to break the law, fire the worker. What we want to do is increase the penalty so that the employer doesn't feel that they can violate the law with impunity."

Twelve percent of American workers are in unions (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics). Labor leaders say government policy has tilted in favor of business and away from workers - and that's keeping union membership down. The bill has a long way to go. Some Senators say they'll filibuster, and President Bush has threatened a veto.

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