In August former Democratic Presidential candidate George McGovern wrote a fretful op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in which he cautioned "fellow" Democrats against supporting the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that would make it easier for workers to form unions. At the time Ian Welsh concluded McGovern was "out of step" with mainstream views.

Tonight McGovern will cross yet another line at the behest of business interests – during the Presidential debate, an ad featuring George McGovern will air in which he "condemns his own party" for supporting legislation that makes it easier for workers to join unions. McGovern’s ad is part of a $120 million campaign by business groups and wealthy special interests who are trying to confuse & divide pro-worker leaders who support the Employee Free Choice Act.

Don’t be fooled. Here’s why.

First things first. McGovern is the *only* major Democratic figure who doesn’t support the Employee Free Choice Act. Every single Democrat in the Senate and all but two in the House voted for the Employee Free Choice Act in 2007, excluding Tim Johnson, who was hospitalized. Even Joe Lieberman joined the Democratic caucus on this vote, and 1 Republican Senator and 13 GOP House members supported it as well. McGovern is virtually alone in his opposition to this bill.

Second, McGovern’s claim – that the Employee Free Choice Act takes away "secret ballots" for union electionsis not true. The Employee Free Choice Act gives workers the choice to form a union, taking away businesses’ veto power on the matter. Basically, once 50% +1 of workers in a workplace say they want a union, they get their union if the Employee Free Choice Act becomes law. But today, even if 100% of workers want a union, the employer can veto it. Rick Perlstein explains the situation well, via economist Dean Baker:

"The only change with the Employee Free Choice Act is whether card check recognition is at the discretion of the employer of the worker. In other words, it changes absolutely ZERO about whether the right of workers to organize is determined by secret ballot or not. The only thing it changes is who gets to decide the manner of certification, workers or employers."

Why is it a good thing if it’s easier for workers to form unions? Take a look around. Do you think it’s any surprise that the worst economic crisis in decades comes when the fewest workers are organized in unions?

When workers are able to form or join a union, workplaces across the country are more fair, giving people the chance to earn better wages and benefits – and protecting against excesses like we’re seeing in corporate America today.

Look at what kind of a difference unions make:

  • Union members earn 30% more than non-union workers.
  • Workers in unions are 59% more likely be covered by employer-provided health insurance.
  • A large union presence in an industry or region can raise wages even for non-union workers.
  • Patients suffering heart attacks have a 5.5% greater chance of survival if their nurses are union members.

For months now, business groups like the one running McGovern’s ad have poured literally tens of millions of dollars into 8 Senate races and national TV advertisements, even hiring some guy to dress up as Death and chase Senate candidates around their campaign events. This is for whom George McGovern now speaks.

Wealthy interests are running scared that workers can soon have their voice at work. The Employee Free Choice Act will restore the Middle Class and bring balance back to our country – something these groups just can’t stand.

So, don’t be fooled tonight – George McGovern and the Employee Freedom Action Committee speak only for themselves and their wealthy funders, not for anyone else in the country. The remainder of the Democratic Party, and a good chunk of the GOP, supports Free Choice for workers. And in January, we’ll have the chance to make that choice.

Michael Whitney

Michael Whitney

My name is Michael Whitney. I'm a progressive online organizer working with FDL Action. Rush Limbaugh called me "clueless" once. He went into rehab two days later.