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Contrast on the Hill: Today, Congress Hears from Workers and CEOs about the Employee Free Choice Act

Here’s what you saw today if you’re a Member of Congress. 

This afternoon, more than 2,000 working people rallied outside the Senate in support of an important part of our economic recovery: the Employee Free Choice Act.  At that rally more than 1 million cards signed by people who support the Employee Free Choice Act were delivered to Members of Congress.  It was a true show of the broad public support for this bill. 

Meanwhile, in the halls of Congress, CEOs are having their "Executive Lobby Day" so they can spread lies and misinformation in order to keep wages down and perpetuate inequality.  How do we know what they’ll say?  Because we went into one of their presentations at a California country club in which top anti-worker lawyers met with business leaders, and captured video of how they talk about defeating the Employee Free Choice Act (check out the video up top!).

What do CEOs say about working people behind closed doors at the country clubs?  Well, they’re first interested in protecting their own interests.  In the presentation, one lawyer from the top anti-employee firm Jackson Lewis told the business leaders that "your choice goes away," because under the Employee Free Choice Act, when workers say they want a union, the workers get a union.  

That’s a feature, not a bug.

The purpose of the Employee Free Choice Act is to give the choice of forming unions to workers.  Right now, it’s up to CEOs if workers can form a union.  The choice should be that of employees, not their bosses.  And giving that workers that choice will be key to our economic recovery. 

Paul Krugman says passing the Employee Free Choice Act will be "a huge step forward toward recapturing the middle-class society."  Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich says the economic impact of the Employee Free Choice Act is "necessary if we want our economy to succeed."

And yet, big businesses are spending millions of dollars to organize against this bill.  CEOs are in Congress this week to argue that they should be able to maintain complete control over their workers joining organizations to bargain for better pay and benefits.  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) – which is hosting the CEO lobbyist day on the Hill – have adapted the Chicken Little strategy for fighting Employee Free Choice. When confronted with legislation to improve American workers’ lives, the Chamber and NAM invariably threaten economic ruin and rampant government control.

The problem is, their predictions have never come true. Consider their records:

  • On fair pay for women: NAM opposes the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to strengthen women’s ability to challenge pay discrimination.
  • On rights for people with disabilities: When the Americans with Disabilities Act was being debated back in 1989, the Chamber opposed it, saying, "Small businesses simply do not have the money in the bank"
  • On minimum wage increases: NAM opposed a proposal to increase the federal minimum wage from $5.15/hour in 2000. In 2007, the Chamber also opposed increasing the minimum wage, claiming that "Even this modest increase will hurt free enterprise."
  • On guaranteed family medical leave: The Chamber opposed the FMLA back in 1991, claiming, "We think most Americans don’t want the federal government to be their personnel administrators."

It’s clear that big business interests don’t want to see working Americans get ahead in this rough economy, no matter what the policy issue.  That’s what Members of Congress need to remember when their hear from both workers and CEOs lobbying them today about the Employee Free Choice Act.

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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.