The landmark Employee Free Choice Act, which would level the playing field for workers up against powerful bosses, is now moving towards a vote in the U.S. Senate.
Leading the fight for EFCA are countless workers across the country who know from first-hand experience why the law is needed. The firing of Don Collette by U-Haul in Las Vegas is a case in point.
In comments posted on the AFL-CIO web site, Collette says he knew “the good a union can get you.” Before working at U-Haul, he worked as a union airline mechanic. He knew being in a union means having decent wages and good benefits, and that is why he and co-workers wanted to organize at U-Haul.
The day Collette and his co-workers filed for an election to be part of the Machinists union, four workers were fired because of their union activity. In the months before the election, the company routinely harassed, intimidated and threatened workers. They were told they would be fired if they supported the union. They were told the plant would shut down. Despite this, the majority at U-Haul stood up to the company and voted almost 2-1 in favor of the union.
The company did not give up. U-Haul contested the election, continued its campaign against the workers and five months later fired Collette. A total of 42 workers were fired illegally by U-Haul because of their union activity. The National Labor Relations Board found that the company broke the law more than 100 times. In 2005 the board ordered Collette and his co-workers back to work with full pay.
Today, Collette still doesn’t have his job. “We won every battle but lost the war,” he said.
His wife took another job to support the family but the extra income was not enough to prevent them from losing their home.
Explaining why he backs EFCA, Collette said, “These companies can do whatever they want. There is no bite to the laws we now have.”
The focus of the fight for EFCA is now the Senate where witnesses testified March 27 before the Health, Education and Pensions Committee.
Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who chairs the committee, said EFCA “will fix our current broken labor law system in three important ways — it will allow workers to choose their representatives, it will require employers to come to the table and talk and it will give teeth to laws designed to protect the rights of workers.”
Errol Hohrein, a Colorado worker who was fired from his job at First Range Energy, told the senators that his company had “no respect for its people or for the law. They brought in a union-busting lawyer who told them to forbid even the mention of the word ‘union’ by workers on the job. This, of course, was illegal. They violated our rights to campaign for a union but despite this we won our union.”
“The victory for me, however, was short lived,” Hohrein continued. “Within days after the NLRB certified our election I was fired. I filed a challenge with the NLRB and it could be years before I get my job back. But my organizing efforts have not ended — not until we get our first contract. I am now sitting at the bargaining table as part of the United Steelworkers team. The company reps are all smiles but I know better. They will stall and we won’t get a contract until the EFCA becomes law.”
President Bush says he will veto the bill if it passes the Senate.
Corporate front groups are waging a major campaign against EFCA. One such group is the Center for Union Facts, led by lobbyist Richard Berman, who is infamous for fighting against drunk driving laws and consumer and health protections. Another is the National Right to Work Committee and Foundation, the country’s oldest organization dedicated entirely to destroying unions.
Polls show the bill has the support of 70 percent of the American public. It passed the House 241-185, and is backed by more than half the Senate, along with an array of civil rights, religious and social justice groups — not to mention every union in the country. This mass movement won’t take a Bush “no” for an answer.
thewritergdr @ europe.com