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South Dakota Workers Supporting "Employee Free Choice Act"

May 1, 2007

South Dakota workers are joining a nationwide effort to support the Employee Free Choice Act, a law that grants workers more say when it comes to joining a union. The measure recently passed in the U.S. House and is headed for a vote in the Senate. Mark Anderson with the South Dakota State Federation of Labor says it would allow workers to bargain for better wages, benefits and working conditions by improving workers' freedom to join a union.

“Over the years the middle class has slowly been disappearing, and one of the things that help build the middle class was unions. And so we're trying to make the law a little stronger so that it's easier for people to have a voice in the workplace.”

Opponents say the law strips American workers of their right to a private-ballot vote and increases penalties for unfair labor practices committed by employers, but not by unions. Anderson disagrees, saying workers currently don't have a level playing field when they try to organize a union.

“If you were in an election today and your opponent controlled the voter list, had the opportunity to meet with every voter every day, had the opportunity to bring them to mandatory meetings, and also had the right to fire your campaign manager, it would be pretty tough for you to win an election.”

Anderson believes that if given a chance, most workers would join a union.

“It's just simply the fact that family income is up 44 percent while tuition, healthcare, natural gas, all the things that we buy are up over 100 percent. And the only way that people are going to be able to stay ahead and keep their income up is to join a union because unions have provided better wages and benefits.”

Anderson is meeting with workers across the state to gather support for the law. The Employee Free Choice Act would establish stronger penalties for violating employee rights when workers move to organize. It would also provide mediations and arbitration for first contract disputes and allow employees to form unions by signing cards that authorize union representation.

David Law/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - SD