Netroots Nation Salon: The fight for Employee Free Choice, online and off

Original source:

Online organizers and progressive activists from inside and outside the union movement met today at the AFL-CIO for a frank conversation about the state of the Employee Free Choice Act and how online activism can help push the bill forward.

Sponsored by the AFL-CIO and Netroots Nation, a nonprofit organization for the advancement of online political activism, the event, titled “Can the Netroots help make the Employee Free Choice Act law,” was part of Netroots Nation’s ongoing Salon Series.

Moderated by Christopher Hayes of The Nation, the event featured the AFL-CIO’s Stewart Acuff, Laura Clawson of Working America and Daily Kos, Michael Whitney of SEIU and Rebecca Wasserman of American Rights at Work.

The discussion focused on how the online progressive movement can help make workers’ freedom to form unions a reality.

Through blogs, e-mail outreach and video, the online progressive community has an important role to play in amplifying the voices of the bill’s broad array of allies, conveying workers’ stories and getting out the message about Employee Free Choice.

As Acuff noted, the campaign for passage takes place on two levels—a “retail” campaign of individuals talking with other individuals at the grassroots, and a “wholesale” effort to send a message to politicians and the press.

Hayes said it is clear that, despite pronouncements from corporate shills and pundits, the Employee Free Choice Act is very much alive and well. He said he was fascinated by the fact that even after Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter expressed doubt about the bill in March, the campaign from the Chamber of Commerce and its corporate allies kicked into even higher gear, with continued ad spending and talk in the media about compromises on the bill.

Acuff agreed, saying the massive spending by corporations fighting the bill cannot change the reality that we’re very near victory in the biggest fight for workers’ rights in generations.

In the six years since we began the struggle for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, Acuff said, the effort has transformed from a dream into the hottest political debate in the country, with the legislation ready to be acted on in Congress. Such movement is due to a concerted effort, online and off, to mobilize a wide range of constituencies, tell the story of workers and corporate greed, and get the message out at the grassroots level.

Said Acuff:

You play the game all the way through. This is a dynamic process, and we’re at the 3-yard line—you can’t just walk off the field now.

We started this six years ago, and I thought it was going to be a 20-year fight. We’ve accomplished so much in the face of such attacks, and all the money they’ve been able to spend has not been able to break it.

The campaign is vibrant and active, and all the forces of corporate America can’t stop it—and they’ve tried everything in their playbook.

Wasserman, a close observer of the debate on Capitol Hill about the bill, said each member of Congress is affected by different kinds of activism. That’s why broad message efforts like TV ads and rallies must be matched by more small-scale, local efforts like letters to the editor, personal letters and phone calls to members of Congress, vigils and town hall meetings.

The Senate will soon consider the bill, and Whitney talked about how online tools give workers the ability to rapidly respond to corporate attacks, contact their elected leaders directly and make sure the principles of the Employee Free Choice Act are protected during the legislative process.

The entire discussion will be available on video shortly, so stay tuned—it’s a great glimpse into the fight for workers’ freedom to form unions and bargain for a better life.