CHICAGO – Imagine the day when working people’s right to decide to join a union is guaranteed and protected by law. That day will come, many argue, when the Employee Free Choice Act is finally signed into law.

In a national week of action, Chicago Free Choice supporters led by the local Jobs With Justice chapter rallied on Tuesday in front of the Chicago-land Chamber of Commerce, which has launched an anti-worker propaganda campaign against the measure. Protestors at the downtown rally claim big business demands bailouts and tax breaks while laying off workers and paying huge bonuses.

“If we’re ever going to address economic inequalities then we have to give workers the right to organize unions,” said 49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore to the World. “Workers everywhere have the God-given right to join unions and demand living wages with decent benefits,” he said. Free Choice supporters must continue to pressure members of Congress to support this cause and do the right thing, added Moore. “We are tired of having the wages of working men and women decline,” he continued. “Now is the time to say enough is enough and Congress must have the guts to pass this measure.”

Katie Jordan, president of the Chicago Coalition of Labor Union Women told the World that passing the Free Choice act would assist working women demand equal pay for equal work.

“Women without unions are on the lowest economic totem pole and do not have the equal opportunity to talk to their bosses about increasing their wages,” said Jordan. “Too many families today are not in unions and struggle to pay their mortgages,” she added.

“It’s the workers who make the products and keep companies alive,” said Jordan. “People need to get paid for what they’re worth and feel free to join unions without being harassed,” she said.

Rev. Calvin Morris with the Community Renewal Society said it’s important to challenge the Chamber of Commerce. It’s not right that corporate higher-ups make exorbitant salaries at the expense of the majority of workers who have little protections, he said.
“The Chamber says, ‘if you give workers what they want, then business will fall apart and the economy will suffer,’ but we know that’s not the case,” insisted Morris.

“That time is over,” he added. “This is a new day and the Employee Free Choice Act must pass and it will pass.”

In an on-going campaign to organize workers at Comcast, Dave Webster with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 21, said the cable company is a poster child why the Free Choice needs to pass. Webster said Comcast spends money on anti-labor attorneys and union busting campaigns, when they should invest their energy in meeting the demands of its workers.

“Workers at Comcast are afraid to talk to each other and the company threatens them saying if they join a union they will lose their jobs,” said Webster.

Pastor Robin Hood with Redeemed Outreach Ministers told the crowd that getting the Free Choice passed is “the fight of all fights right now.”

Leah Fried , an organizer with United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers (UE) Local 1110, which recently won a $1.75 million settlement from for its workers at the Republic Windows and Doors Chicago factory told the World,

“Without the Free Choice, workers will have to take over factories to fight for their basic rights just like we took over Republic.”

“The Chamber of Commerce and big business is spending millions of dollars to sell out workers in this country,” she said. “They are trying very hard to defend the status quo while corporate abuse continues to go unpunished.”

Two hundred and fifty workers conducted a six-day sit-in last December when the Chicago Republic Windows plant was abruptly closed and the worker’s vacation and severance pay and health benefits were illegally denied.

A group of the Republic workers were at the rally including Ron Bender who is a shop steward with the UE Local.

“Workers need the choice to vote for a union without being intimidated and they should decide for themselves,” said Bender. “We wouldn’t have won any of our demands without our union,” he added.

With the passage of the Free Choice act unionized workers will have more job security, earn 30 percent more than non-unionized workers, and are much more likely to have health benefits, short-term disability insurance, life insurance and pensions, supporters say.

Katie Jordan summed up the spirit of the rally projecting this struggle is one workers are determined to win.

“We will defeat you and we will fight until we get this work done, because there is more of us than you, even if we have to stand here until eternity,” she said.