Unions revamp campaign for card-check bill
Organized-labor leaders announced Tuesday a campaign to spend millions to press lawmakers to pass legislation that would make it easier for unions to organize, promising a contentious fight with business associations.
American Rights at Work, a worker advocacy group, said it had made a $3 million ad buy to begin Thursday, to lobby for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act. The ads will run nationwide for the next two weeks and feature workers imploring lawmakers to pass the bill in order to improve their economic situation.
Several high-profile leaders in the labor and civil rights movement said the bill, which would allow workers to bypass secret-ballot elections if a majority sign petition cards, is vital to ending employers’ harassment and intimidation of workers. In turn, if employees can unionize, they can negotiate for better wages and benefits, argued the advocates.
“Restoring the middle class is key to getting our economy back on track,” said Mary Beth Maxwell, executive director for American Rights at Work.
Business associations, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said that if the bill, also known as card-check, becomes law, strikes and work stoppages will become much more frequent, dragging down industry. The Chamber has put together a more than $10 million campaign against the bill since the election.
Labor has argued that while production and business revenue has gradually increased over the past three decades, workers’ pay has remained stagnant and they have not shared in the nation’s increasing wealth.
“To bridge this gap in inequality, we have to give people the chance to collectively bargain with their employers,” said former Rep. David Bonior (D-Mich.), chairman of the labor advocacy group. “This act is not only important for union organizers but for those who are not in a union.”
Tuesday’s television ad buy is the group’s second since the election. It also follows on the heels of last week’s announcement by the Service Employees International Union of a new campaign for the legislation, as well as a push for healthcare reform and the economic recovery package. SEIU has already committed $10 million and said it planned to use 30 percent of the union’s resources overall, estimated to be at least $50 million, for the effort.
Labor officials said there was no specific timing on when the bill would reach the House floor this year, though congressional leaders are motivated to move the legislation quickly.
Bill Samuel, director of government affairs for the AFL-CIO, said he thought “this spring” the bill would move for a House vote.
“We expect it to be in a group of bills that will address the economy,” Samuel said.