Labor rights protestors from Jobs With Justice of East Tennessee gathered in front of the Knox Area Chamber Partnership this afternoon, expressing anger over what it calls "a virulent campaign against passage of the Employee Free Choice Act" being waged by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Photo by Travis Gray
"We are asking the Chamber to pledge support for the EFCA. If it decides it can't do that, we're asking that it disassociate itself from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce," says Fran Ansley, a retired UT law professor and member of the United Campus Workers Union. JWJET is delivering a letter to the Chamber's CEO Mike Edwards.
The primary counter-argument against the EFCA is that in eliminating the current system, dependent as it is on a secret ballot vote (see below), it would allow for employee coercion by labor organizers. But Ansler says, the rhetoric of union gangsterism doesn't correspond to the reality of the workplace.
"Employees have gigantically greater odds of being coerced by their employers," who often seek to quash labor organization, Ansley says. "That problem is very real." According to AFL-CIO literature being distributed at the rally, between 1999 and 2007, there were 37,108 NLRB complaints issued against employers, while onle 2,983 complaints were issued against unions.
Ansley says that, given the shift away from an industrial to service/health care economy, the EFCA would open up the possibility of labor organization in businesses that don't already have a built-in union infrastructure.
"Fewer and fewer people know what it is to grow up in a family that appreciates value of a union," she says.
But, says protestor Jason Andrews, member of the Sheet Metal Workers International Association Local No. 5, it's not just a union issue.
"This is something that affects all workers' rights," he says.
Background on the EFCA: The Employee Free Choice Act, which passed the House in 2007 but was stalled in the Senate, was proposed to change--streamline, in the language of the bill's supporters--the process by which employees can unionize, allowing employees to go directly to the National Labor Relations Board for union certification, rather than having management call for a secret ballot election, if a majority (50 percent plus one) of bargaining unit members indicate they want to unionize. Full text of legislation here, CRS summary here, pro-EFCA slanted Wiki here, anti-EFCA slanted U.S. Chamber page here.