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"Free Choice Act" Faces Filibuster

June 25, 2007

The U.S. Senate this week takes up a plan to make it easier for workers to form a union, and a filibuster seems likely with a split along party lines. The law would certify a union when most workers sign authorizing cards. Diane O'Brien of the Minnesota AFL-CIOsays it's designed to correct what many workers consider an unfair labor practice.

“The 'Employee Free Choice Act' would open up the workplace, so that workers themselves would be able to decide, without fear of retribution, whether they want a union in their workplace.”

Currently, employers can demand a secret ballot, but the law would give workers the option of calling an election. Opponents call the measure 'undemocratic;' supporters say the election process has been corrupted to let companies intimidate workers and lock unions out. O'Brien believes the legislation would have a huge impact on Minnesota workers.

“Currently, employers fire approximately 25 percent of the people who attempt to organize workers in their workplaces. This does not encourage people to want to form unions. Although the firing is illegal, our current laws are not enforced. We can not stop employer misbehavior.”

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar notes that the bill creates a level playing field, and includes provisions that are fair to workers and to businesses.

“You can have a majority sign up for forming unions if you have a majority sign cards that are validated by the 'National Labor Relations Board.' It also strengthens financial penalties for companies that illegally intimidate employees in an effort to prevent them from forming a union. I look at it this way: not every company is going to have a union. We have some great companies that don't have unions. But I think having unions helps all workers, because they are able to bargain for good health care and things like that. That helps everyone in our state, because it raises the standard.”

Jim Wishner/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - MN