News & Events

Employee Free Choice Act update

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
May 2009 Edition

The furor over the Employee Free Choice Act has reached a fever pitch in our nation’s capitol. This bill would make it easier for nurses and other workers to join a union of their choice. It enjoys wide support in the labor movement, the general public and among members of Congress. But business groups have spent tens of millions of dollars spreading disinformation and aggressively lobbying against the bill. Despite the full court press of the business lobby, the bill enjoys majority support in both the U.S. House and Senate. However, the procedural rules of the Senate allow a minority to prevent bills from coming up for a vote through the use of a filibuster. Because of this, supporters of the Employee Free Choice Act will need 60 votes in order to be able to end debate (this is called cloture) and bring the bill to a vote on its merits. Although opponents of the bill have self righteously – and falsely – described themselves in this debate as defenders of a secret ballot – they evidently see no irony in preventing the bill from actually being voted on in the Senate. Such is the hypocrisy of the business community.

Arlen Specter, the lone Republican (who is now a Democrat) who voted for cloture when the bill came up in 2007, reneged on his earlier support of the bill, and a small handful of moderate Democrats have also wavered in their earlier support for this legislation. However, media reports of the death of the Employee Free Choice have been greatly exaggerated. There is tremendous support in Congress for addressing the broken labor election system and the resulting growing inequality in our country. Even those who have wavered on the bill as it is currently written have publicly expressed a willingness to work on meaningful legislation to address the problems the bill was meant to solve. It seems very probable that there will be a significant pro-worker change to the National Labor Relations Act for the first time since it was originally passed in 1935!

It is likely the bill will be slightly altered in committee this summer and will be debated by the Senate in June. It is absolutely critical that we continue to call our legislators and let them know how important this bill is. If you have friends and family in other states, be sure to ask them to call their senators as well. The quality of the bill that comes out of committee will depend entirely on how much pressure we apply to our elected officials. Opponents have no shortage of money to spend to lie about this bill and what the labor movement stands for, and no scruples to bind them to the truth. We must ensure that our voice is heard and that all our elected officials know what our union has done for us, our patients and our community.

For information about how you can help, contact Riley Ohlson at 781.830.5740 or