CLEVELAND – The labor movement here is actively mobilizing to support the Employee Free Choice Act, which would weaken the ability of companies to intimidate workers from joining a union.
“We are in the fight for our lives,” Loree Soggs, president of the North Shore AFL-CIO, told the heavily attended March 11 meeting of delegates to the Cleveland-area labor federation. He called on local unions to contribute generously to a $20 million “Turn Around America” media campaign on behalf of the bill.
“This is not just about organizing more people,” Harriet Applegate, executive secretary of the federation said. “Once the Employee Free Choice Act passes there will be a permanent shift in the balance of power between labor and management.
“We haven’t fully comprehended the meaning of the Obama victory,” she said. “This bill will place labor in a different position. Think about how much institutional power European unions have in society.”
Applegate urged delegates to write letters to U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown thanking him for co-sponsoring the bill and urged efforts to get support from employers who understand that raising living standards is necessary for economic recovery. Les Wiley, coordinator of the North Coast Area Labor Federation, covering the area along Lake Erie from Lorain on the west to the Pennsylvania border, said with the introduction of the bill in the House and Senate that very day “the fight has begun.”
He said corporate forces have stepped up anti-labor propaganda and cited the claim of right-wing extremist Rush Limbaugh on his radio show, that morning, if the bill passes, organizers would use lead pipes to coerce workers to sign union cards.
Wiley urged delegates to attend the rally for the bill being organized by Cleveland Jobs with Justice in Public Square downtown here on March 30 at 4 p.m. The theme of the rally is: “Employee Free Choice Act = Economic Recovery.”