WASHINGTON (PAI) — Flanked by workers harassed or fired for trying to form unions, labor leaders and key lawmakers reintroduced the Employee Free Choice Act on April 19.

The measure would legalize card-check recognition of unions, said AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney. That’s in contrast to the cumbersome, delay-ridden, pro-business National Labor Relations Board elections process. The measure, unveiled at a Capitol Hill press conference, would also outlaw “captive audience” meetings, increase penalties on employers for breaking labor laws, and order binding arbitration when unions and management cannot agree on a first contract.

The bill, by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) — top Democrats on committees dealing with worker issues, has bipartisan support, including Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.). It’s based on a bill written by the late Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.).

The GOP-run Congress may well resist it, but Sweeney implied any lawmaker’s stand on EFCA will be key to labor’s support in coming elections. “I cannot think of any greater barometer to judge an elected leader’s commitment to workers’ rights than whether or not they will stand with workers on this fundamental human right,” he explained.

“America’s workers want to form unions. They know unions bring better wages, benefits and a voice on the job. But workers are under attack by employers — like Wal-Mart — that break the rules and intimidate or even fire employees who say they want a union,” Sweeney said.

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