Let workers choose when to form unions

Published 8:39 am Monday, March 2, 2009

In Tuesday’s Albert Lea Tribune, David Olson, president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, explained why corporations don’t like the Employee Free Choice Act. That’s understandable. Mr. Olson leads an organization that is made up of corporations. The Minnesota AFL-CIO is made up of working people who have unions or are trying to form them in their workplaces. We are somewhat skeptical when corporations tell us that they have workers’ best interests at heart.

The numbers tell a different story.

Today in Minnesota about 400,000 working people bargain cooperatively for better pay and benefits through their workplace unions. More than 200,000 more Minnesotans belong to Working America, a rapidly growing organization for people who would like union representation in their workplaces.

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The number of union members will probably increase when the Employee Free Choice Act is passed by Congress. And that explains why groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Wal-Mart (the nation’s largest employer), McDonald’s and others, are working so hard to squash support for the bill. Mr. Olson and his corporate kin know how hard it is for one person, alone, to walk into the boss’s office and ask for a raise, ask for health care benefits, ask for a decent retirement plan.

They also know that when workers join together in a union they negotiate together for their compensation — they don’t have to beg for it. And that makes a real difference for working people. In our state, union members earn over $4 more per hour than non-union workers in similar jobs, a union advantage of 26.3 percent.

A lot of working people think Congress should pass the Employee Free Choice Act. A lot of Chamber of Commerce officials think Congress should not. Currently, employers decide what process workers can use to form their unions. And, even though it is against current law to fire people for trying to organize unions, one in five workers trying to organize a union is fired, generally by one of the corporations that Mr. Olson tells us “respect workers rights.”

We believe that workers should decide for themselves if they will form a union and how they will go about doing so. We support the Employee Free Choice Act and we are pleased that several members of Minnesota’s Congressional Delegation support it. We encourage Congress to pass the bill and we invite readers of the Albert Lea Tribune to get more information about the Employee Free Choice Act at www.freechoiceact.org

Steve Hunter


Minnesota AFL-CIO

St. Paul