Communities rally for worker rights bill

Rush Limbaugh does bosses’ bidding on EFCA

CLEVELAND — As part of a growing grassroots movement, over 100 community and labor activists rallied for the Employee Free Choice Act in Cleveland Public Square March 30.

During the event, a flatbed truck with huge signs reading “Turn America Around 2009 – Employee Free Choice Act Equals Economic Recovery” circled the Square, a 20-foot high puppet of President Barack Obama, waved its arms in support of the bill. A street theater production exposed how union recognition elections conducted by the National Labor Relations Board are easily manipulated by companies to stop unionization.

The event, one of 44 “Resistance and Recovery” actions held nationwide by the Jobs With Justice coalition and its Student Action Labor Project during the week of March 27 – April 4, was also sponsored by the North Shore AFL-CIO Federation of Labor.

Support at the rally went beyond labor’s ranks as state officials, environmental and civil rights advocates and small business owners spoke about why they supported the worker rights bill.

“As someone who runs secret ballot elections for a living,” Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner said, “I can tell you we need the Employee Free Choice Act.” She denounced an editorial in the Columbus Dispatch that day falsely claiming the bill would take away the secret ballot. “Workers,” she said, “could still choose to have a secret ballot if the majority wants it, but employers could not make that decision for them.”

The Columbus Dispatch isn’t the only media outlet doing the corporate CEOs’ bidding. Right-wing extremist Rush Limbaugh on his radio show last month said if the bill passes, organizers would use “lead pipes” to coerce workers to sign union cards.

But unions play a key role in the economy and the environment, Mackenzie Bailey, regional representative of the Sierra Club, said. The environmental group strongly supports the bill because “workers are the first line of defense against pollution hazards and unsafe conditions. If workers have union rights they won’t fear for their jobs if they call attention to these problems.”

She said the Employee Free Choice Act was a critical part of a “clean energy economy.”

Stanley Miller, president of the Cleveland NAACP and a former member of the communication workers union, said the NAACP “nationally and locally supports the Employee Free Choice Act” and “always finds itself fighting for workers’ rights.” He urged organized labor to work for maximum diversity in its membership.

The crowd cheered when it was announced the local NAACP would soon pass a resolution reaffirming support for the bill. Debbie Kline, director of Cleveland Jobs With Justice, announced the city councils of Cleveland and four suburbs had recently passed resolutions supporting the bill.