When people think about the fight for labor law reform that is front and center these days in organized labor’s push for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, they think of groups lobbying in the halls of Congress. On any given day, a pro-worker group goes into a representative’s office and puts on the pressure to support America’s workers. On another day, high-paid corporate lobbyists come by and put their squeeze on the same lawmaker.

But legislators hoping to get relief from the pressure during the next two weeks as they go home for their April recess might as well forget it, at least as far as the workers who want employee free choice are concerned.

If members of the Senate and the House are against the reform bill or still sitting on the fence, when they get to their home districts they will be the target of phone-banking, letter-writing and leafleting campaigns. Those supporting the measure will be invited to speak at town halls and rallies to pressure those who are not. In the next two weeks more than 300 public events are planned to support employee free choice, according to the AFL-CIO.

Unprecedented amounts of local grassroots activity in support of the bill were already under way before the legislators went home.

In Valparaiso, Ind., Georgia-Pacific workers voted in a union two years ago but stalling by the company has them still without a contract. The company has fired one of the organizers of the unionizing drive. Last week, workers traveled there from all over northern Indiana to demonstrate support for the Georgia-Pacific workers.

Michael O’Brien, an organizer for the Steelworkers, who represent the Valparaiso workers, said, “This shows how badly broken our system of labor law is, and how much we need a new law to change it. We should not allow this to happen in America.”

Brian McIntosh, a former worker at Georgia-Pacific, joined the demonstration and spoke to the workers. “We cannot stop,” he said, “we have to continue this fight. It might be long, it might be hard, but we will win the battle. You need to get hold of your congressperson; you need to tell them we need this act. We cannot continue to have union-busting going on like this. Enough is enough.”

Further north, lawmakers returning home to Wisconsin can expect the same kind of activity. Just days before the congressional recess, the Milwaukee Area Labor Council organized a “Bucks Fans for the Employee Free Choice Act Day.” They designed a banner covered with signatures to bring to Sen. Herb Kohl, who has not yet signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill.

Wisconsin’s congressional delegation will notice that union members in their state seem to be particularly hot to demonstrate on a range of issues. Last week, workers in Kenosha held a rally for corporate accountability.

Typical of the town hall meetings that will occur all over the country in the next two weeks is the one held in Fort Smith, Ark., last week. State AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Ricky Belk was among the union leaders who took part in a town hall meeting there on the economy. He told the gathering that union membership meant he and his wife could “raise a family and join the middle class.” Corporate dominance of the system for forming unions, he said, threatens that promise and workers’ ability to earn fair wages and get access to health care and pensions.

Members of Congress going home for spring break will also notice that not only union members but many of their allies as well will be holding meetings in their districts with small business owners, winning more of them to support the legislation.

Whether they are going home to California on the West Coast or Maine on the East Coast, or vacationing in Alaska or Florida, the nation’s lawmakers will be doing a lot of talking this spring break about employee free choice.

jwojcik @ pww.org

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