Labor renews call for EFCA

efcarally.jpgThis past Labor Day weekend, union members and worker rights' advocates across the country used the holiday to reignite the push for the Employee Free Choice Act, legislation that would make it easier for workers to organize.{C}

The EFCA, seen as one of the most important pieces of legislation in support of labor rights in a generation, was introduced in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate in March. One key component of the bill would allow unions to form when a majority of workers sign cards -- a process dubbed "card check" -- as opposed to drawn-out National Labor Relations Board elections in which companies frequently subject workers to harassment and intimidation.
The EFCA has faced an uphill battle, undergoing attacks by corporate lobbies waging a heavily-funded PR campaign. As Facing South reported, several conservative Democrats from the South, including Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, have also aligned with business interests and have voiced opposition to the bill, making it harder for Senate Democrats to secure the 60 votes needed to prevent a Republican filibuster. 
As Facing South covered in July, several moderate Democrats have considered compromising out the card-check provision, hoping to garner the support of the more conservative lawmakers in the party. Following talks of compromise, the EFCA faded out of the national spotlight with the Congressional battle over health care reform taking center stage.  The bill's prospects for passage have remained uncertain. 
But as Congress returns to Washington Tuesday after a month-long recess, labor rights groups are calling for more action from lawmakers on the bill. As Politico reported, labor advocates used the Congressional recess to keep pressure on lawmakers, participating in "delivering signatures and letters to senators' district offices, rallies, worker roundtables, letter-writing and phone-banking events, delegation visits, town halls, worksite leafleting and editorial board meetings." 
The labor coalition American Rights at Work launched a national cable television ad campaign over Labor Day weekend making the case for the EFCA. "This Labor Day should be considered a turning point for a new era for workers' rights," said Kimberly Freeman, executive director American Rights at Work. "We are redoubling our efforts to show how the Employee Free Choice Act will rebuild the economy and restore workers' rights. As lawmakers return from the August recess, they will be reminded that Americans see the Employee Free Choice Act as fundamental to meaningful labor law reform and creating an economy that works for everyone. We will not let our leaders forget that a majority of the public is counting on them to pass this critical legislation this year." 
Over the Labor Day weekend, the Obama administration reaffirmed their support for the EFCA. President Obama praised the hard-work of labor while speaking at an AFL-CIO gathering in Cincinnati, voicing his continued support for the EFCA and calling on labor's help in winning the health care fight in Washington. Vice President Joe Biden appeared at a Labor Day rally in in Pittsburgh, where he promised the gathered crowd that the EFCA would make it through Congress before the end of the year. 
Groups around the South also stepped up to the plate to fight for the EFCA. Members of Louisiana's faith community spoke out last week in support of the bill, sending an open letter to Louisiana Sens. Mary Landrieu and David Vitter. Landrieu has been on the fence about her support of the bill. 
Labor rights' groups are still hoping the EFCA will pass by the end of the year, but with health-care reform as the Obama administration's top Congressional priority following the recess, there has also been speculation that the EFCA would not come up for vote this year. In August, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) indicated that the EFCA would not be on the Senate's docket this fall. Speaking to the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, Reid said: "We have too many other things on our plate."  
Despite the renewed grassroots effort for the EFCA, it also appears that many labor leaders see a compromise as inevitable, in light of the tight opposition from the Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats. In fact, the incoming president of the AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka hinted last week that the group might be willing to compromise on the card-check provision.