SAN DIEGO – Leaders of 56 national unions agreed here March 4, at an AFL-CIO executive council meeting, to collect written pledges from 10 percent of the federation’s members, one million workers, demanding an overhaul of U.S. labor law. The signed pledges, which will be presented to the newly elected President and to all members of the House and Senate in January of 2009, will insist on the passage and signing into law of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).

The EFCA would require companies to recognize a union as the bargaining agent for its workers as soon as a majority of employees sign cards indicating support for the union. The long, drawn out election campaigns that have been dominated by employers who intimidate and fire union supporters would be eliminated.

Massive efforts by labor and its allies resulted in passage of the EFCA in the House of Representatives in 2007 and won a bipartisan majority in the Senate. The measure did not become law because there were not enough Senate votes to override a Republican filibuster nor was there enough Congressional support (two thirds) necessary to avoid a presidential veto.

“We proved, nevertheless, that there is majority support for labor law reform in both the U.S. House and Senate,” AFL-CIO Organizing Director Stewart Acuff told the World.

He said the “million member mobilization” is necessary because of stepped up right-wing attacks against the EFCA.

Opponents of the proposed law include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Right to Work Committee, the Center for Union Facts, the Heritage Foundation and an entire array of hostile employers.

“They have mounted a no-holds barred drive to stop workers from having their rights restored,” Acuff warned, adding, “they say they are defending the secret ballot and speaking on behalf of workers. This campaign will show that workers can speak for themselves and that they will fight for the EFCA.”

Union leaders gathered here March 4-6 see the organizing rights of workers as something closely connected to the nation’s overall economic health.

The argument they are making goes like this: As the economy heads into recession and more workers fall behind it is more important than ever that the EFCA become law. The “middle class” is struggling to maintain living standards. Wages are stagnating, workers are losing their homes to foreclosure, health costs are skyrocketing and more and more workers are losing pension benefits. Income inequality is at its worst since the 1920’s. America’s workers must regain their bargaining power if the “middle class” is to be maintained.

“The American middle class was created by the ability of workers to form unions and bargain collectively after the passage of the Wagner Act in 1935,” Acuff said. “More and more Americans are beginning to understand that collective bargaining promotes broadly shared economic prosperity, higher wages, better jobs, better and more extensive health coverage, retirement security and respect for workers on the job.”

The “million member mobilization,” is only part of the AFL-CIO plan to win passage of the EFCA. The executive council passed a resolution, March 4, that read, “To enact the EFCA in the 111th Congress, we will deepen our grassroots movement for reform and we will help elect larger pro-working family majorities in both houses of the U.S. Congress and a president who will work for and sign the EFCA into law.”

On top of these efforts, Acuff indicated that unions have moved into areas of activity that were once the province of only corporate lobbyists. He said that union leaders, including himself, are working with Senators in targeted states where they feel lawmakers either need to be moved on the issue or whose support for the EFCA needs to be “shored up.”

Acuff said that labor law reform is crucial because quite frequently employers have been able to use the current system to thwart both the will of their workers and the best efforts of serious union organizers.

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