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Public Statements

Employee Free Choice Act Of 2007--Motion To Proceed

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. OBAMA. Mr. President, all across the country, Americans are anxious about their future. In a global economy with new rules and new risks, they have watched as their Government has shifted those risks onto the backs of the American worker, and they wonder how they are ever going to keep up.

In coffee shops and town meetings, in VFW halls and all along the towns that once housed the manufacturing facilities that built our country, the questions are all the same. Will I be able to leave my children a better world than I was given? Will I be able to save enough to send them to college? Will I be able to plan for my retirement? Will my job even be there tomorrow? Who will stand up for me in this new world?

The Employee Free Choice Act can alleviate some of these concerns. I support this bill because in order to restore a sense of shared prosperity and security, we need to help working Americans exercise their right to organize under a fair and free process and bargain for their fair share of the wealth our country creates.

The current process for organizing a workplace denies too many workers the ability to do so. The Employee Free Choice Act offers to make binding an alternative process under which a majority of employees can sign up to join a union. Currently, employers can choose to accept--but are not bound by law to accept--the signed decision of a majority of workers. That choice should be left up to workers and workers alone.

Moreover, workers who want to form a union today are vulnerable to a concentrated period of union-busting tactics by employers. Far too often, workers petition to form a union, the employer is notified, and then the employer uses the time between notification and the vote to force workers into closed-door meetings where they might mislead and scare their employees into opposing the organizing drive. In thousands of cases, employers just start firing prounion employees to send a message. And they consider any penalties that result from that behavior an acceptable cost of doing business.

The Employee Free Choice Act would give workers the right to collect signed cards from a majority of their colleagues to form a union and would require the employer to respect and accept that decision. It increases penalties to discourage employers from punishing workers trying to organize their colleagues, and it encourages both sides to negotiate the first contract in good faith by sending stalemates to binding arbitration.

As executive compensation skyrockets and money managers rake in millions in income annually, American workers are wondering if the rules aren't tilted against them. They question whether their vote and their efforts matter. They feel they have an increasingly weaker voice in the decisions their employers and their Government make. They find themselves competing against workers abroad who lack fair pay and benefits. And they feel ill-equipped to challenge employers who are cutting wages or refusing to raise wages at the same time as they are shedding their health care and retirement contributions.

What the history of America's middle class teaches us--and what we have to make real today--is the idea that in this country, we must value the labor of every single American. We must be willing to respect that labor and reward it with a few basic guarantees--wages that can raise a family, health care if we get sick, a retirement that is dignified, working conditions that are safe.

To protect that labor, we need a few basic rights: organization without intimidation, bargaining in good faith, and a safe workplace. These are commonsense principles, and this bill affirms those principles. For this reason, I stand in solidarity with working people around the country as an original cosponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act, and I urge my colleagues to pass it.

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