Biden: Unions key to rebuilding economy

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Vice President Biden declared yesterday that he and President Obama would not consider their economic recovery efforts a success unless they created “good, sustainable jobs” and that the key to that success is rebuilding the American labor movement.

Biden reiterated the administration’s support for the Employee Free Choice Act during his speech at a legislative conference here of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which has 1.7 million members.

The vice president told the labor gathering that the best way to rebuild the working and middle class is to help labor unions grow and that “it’s time to level the playing field” for unions by passing a bill that would make it easier for workers to organize.

“You’ve got to climb up a hill with so many roadblocks on the way that it’s just out of whack. If a union is what you want, then a union is what you should get,” he said.

The Employee Free Choice Act would allow workers to form a union when a majority at a work place sign cards indicating that they wish to be represented by the union. Workers, rather than bosses, would choose whether the union is formed by “card check” or after an election. The so-called “secret ballot elections” have, for many years now, become company-dominated charades used by bosses to harass and even fire union supporters.

Senators are reportedly working on a compromise version of the measure that will satisfy some so-called “moderate” Democrats that have concerns about parts of the bill. Democrats need to get 60 votes in the Senate to kill a threatened GOP filibuster.

The labor movement has said that the bill must allow workers to choose how they form unions, that it must increase penalties for employers who violate labor law by harassing or firing union organizers, and that it must limit the time employers are allowed to stall on a contract once a union is formed.

During his speech Biden talked about the different situations faced by public sector and private sector workers. In the public sector 37 percent belong to unions as opposed to the private sector, where only 7.5 percent are unionized. The vice president noted that federal, state and municipal employees face fewer impediments to organizing than those in the private sector, “where managers use every trick in the book to undermine unions.”

He said the administration seeks a “middle class that is growing and taking a piece of that productivity.”

Biden is chair of the President’s middle class task force, which evaluates policies and recommends ways to boost middle-class families.