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Leading Environmentalist Group Endorses Employee Free Choice Act

January 20, 2009

The Sierra Club, the oldest and largest environmentalist group in the United States, added its voice to the millions of working families and their allies who support passage of the Employee Free Choice Act.

“Protecting workers’ freedom of association is closely linked to the efforts to protect the environment and communities,” wrote Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope in a letter endorsing the act. “Workers serve as the front line against hazardous pollution … union workers are better trained to know about the health and safety risks of hazardous chemicals and have greater protections if they blow the whistle on hazards and accidents in the workplace.”

In the face of a union organizing campaign, many employers flout weak laws to fire, harass or otherwise intimidate workers from supporting a union. The Employee Free Choice Act would:

  • Establish stronger penalties for violation of employee rights when workers seek to form a union and during first-contract negotiations.
  • Provide mediation and arbitration for first-contract disputes.
  • Allow employees to form unions by signing cards authorizing union representation.

Organized labor and environmentalists have been coming together recent years to confront both the environmental and economic crisis by pushing for investment in green jobs. The Sierra Club is one the initiators of the Blue-Green Alliance, a partnership of the Club and labor unions – including the IBEW – to promote good, union jobs that will help fight global warming.

With support growing for the Employee Free Choice Act, labor’s opponents are lining up to spend millions to defeat the most sweeping overhaul of labor law in generations. In response, the AFL-CIO has come out with a new Web site aimed at setting the record straight on the Employee Free Choice Act.

The Web site [http://www.aflcio.org/joinaunion/voiceatwork/efca/] offers videos, worker testimonials and facts, including the entire text of the proposed legislation, to counter the distortions circulated by anti-union forces.

“Even as the country faces high unemployment and a sputtering economy, the enemies of organized labor are intent on blocking the one measure that would result in a better standard of living for thousands of American workers,” said IBEW International President Edwin D. Hill. “Their only concern is keeping the legal deck stacked against working people, and they will do whatever they think is necessary to keep it that way.”

The bill passed the House of Representatives in 2007, but was blocked in the Senate. This time, with a stronger majority in the Senate and the support of President-elect Barack Obama, labor activists are cautiously optimistic about the bill’s chances.