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Philadelphia Daily News Editorial - We ARE protecting workers

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Date:
Location: Unknown


Philadelphia Daily News

August 16, 2004 Monday 4STAR EDITION

SECTION: EDITORIAL OPINION; Pg. 17

LENGTH: 646 words

HEADLINE: We ARE protecting workers

BODY:
This was written by the city's three members of Congress, Democrats Robert A. Brady, Chaka Fattah and Joseph M. Hoeffel.

WE take exception to the Aug. 3 op-ed by Rep. Charles Norwood (R-Ga.), "Protecting Democracy for Workers."

For decades, workers seeking to form a union have used card check or majority verification as a free and voluntary process to show majority support.

It is legal under the National Labor Relations Act, which protects employee rights. It lets workers sign authorizations expressing their desire to unionize. When a certified majority of workers sign authorizations, their union can be recognized and bargaining can begin. This is the process Rep. Norwood seeks to ban.

Rep. Norwood erroneously stated that the card-check process "strips an employee of his right to vote on contracts by a secret ballot." It is clear that Rep. Norwood does not understand the process he seeks to outlaw. "Card check" is only the first step for workers to exercise their free choice to form a union so that they can negotiate a contract for better wages and benefits. Rep. Norwood's bill will block workers from forming a union and protecting their rights.

Under current law, when workers seek to form a union, their employer can force them into an election process. Research demonstrates that current federal law invites and encourages employers to subject their workers to threats, intimidation and coercion during this election process.

According to Cornell University's Kate Bronfenbrenner, more than 90 percent of employers thwart their own workers' attempts to form a union. Typical tactics include claiming that the plant will close, forcing workers to attend one-on-one meetings against their union with direct supervisors, and making threats about workers' wages and benefits. In fact, in one-quarter of cases where workers seek to form a union in the private sector, one or more workers are illegally fired.

THAT IS why we and 204 of our colleagues support the Employee Free Choice Act, H.R. 3619. It would amend the National Labor Relations Act to restore the right of workers to unionize, free from employer coercion and intimidation. It would also provide for mediation and arbitration to help workers attain a first contract with their employer.

Now more than ever, workers need a raise, health care, retirement benefits and better working conditions. The collective-bargaining process remains the best way to gain those benefits.

Because of strong unions, Pennsylvania workers are much better off than those in Rep. Norwood's state of Georgia. Pennsylvanians are able to negotiate higher wages, affordable health care, retirement benefits and a say in their working conditions. That's not just good for union workers. After all, the fair contracts unions negotiate raise the bar for all workers in Pennsylvania.

Despite the obvious benefits of collective bargaining, current law makes it very difficult for workers to unionize and negotiate a contract for these benefits. Rep. Norwood is sponsoring a bill that will make it ever harder.

Fifteen percent of Pennsylvania workers are protected by a union. In Georgia, the number is 6.7 percent. Because of the union advantage, 66 percent of Pennsylvania's private employers offer their workers health insurance, while only 51.7 percent of private employers in Georgia do.

In Pennsylvania, 72 percent of people under 65 have employment-based health insurance, versus 67.3 percent in Georgia. In Pennsylvania, 54.9 percent of private-sector workers have employer-provided pensions, versus 45.8 percent in Georgia.

Unions help employers. Unionized workforces are more stable and productive where workers have a say in improving their jobs and providing for their families.

We suggest Rep. Norwood try to improve health care and pensions for Georgia workers before criticizing Pennsylvania.

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