Thursday, June 18, 2009

Last night's protest: Rally for the Employee Free Choice Act

Posted By on Thu, Jun 18, 2009 at 10:15 AM

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Back in October, Home Depot co-founder, Bernie Marcus, called the Employee Free Choice Act the "demise of a civilization." Yesterday, a large crowd of workers, advocates and local politicians circled the sidewalk under one of Marcus' big, orange signs to protest big business' opposition to EFCA and call for the passage of the union-friendly legislation.

The Employee Free Choice Act would make it easier for workers to form labor unions, invoke federal mediation if an union is unable to secure a contract within 90 days and strengthen penalties aimed at companies that interfere with collective organizing. Opponents, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, argue it would eliminate the secret ballot, inject federal interference in contract negotiation, and unfairly punish businesses. Proponents, like the dozens of placard-wielding demonstrators at Main Street and Linwood Avenue yesterday afternoon, argue it would simply level the playing field between boss and worker.

click to enlarge Bridgette Williams
  • Bridgette Williams

"It provides a mechanism that brings fairness to the workplace," said Bridgette Williams, president of the Greater Kansas City AFL-CIO. Not only would it make it easier to organize a union, but it would insure that a company doesn't drag its feet in contract negotiations and attempt to de-certify a union after as little as six months. "And we're not in this fight ourselves," Williams said, glancing at the chanting line of placard-waving citizens, including Jackson County legislator Scott Burnett. "The community believes in this."

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"It will give workers a voice on the job," said Jason Vellmer, a staff representative for the Communication Workers of America.

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"I do believe in unions; I belong to one," said Karen Cochran, a member of IBEW Local 124. "But it's not just about unions. It's about fair treatment."

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Molly Madden, a member of the Amalgamated Transit Union, brought her two grandchildren, Timothy and Jaden Metcalf. Not up for negotiation: Timothy had the most creative, homemade sign of all the protesters.

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