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Employee Free Choice Supporters Rally on Capitol Hill

February 9, 2009

Over 600 unionists rallied outside the U.S. Capitol on February 4 to deliver petitions with millions of signatures in support of the Employee Free Choice Act, a measure that will make it easier for workers to choose unions to improve their pay, benefits and their voice on the job.  The measure would correct a company-dominated system that allows corporations to intimidate and fire workers who organize.

“Strong unions built the middle class,” said Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers, who introduced key supporters of the act, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.).  “It’s foolish to believe that we will rebuild the economy without the excitement, skills and participation of [organized] workers,” said Miller. “Keep turning up the heat until we pass EFCA.”

“It’s important to send a message to Congress that every worker has a right organize to make a decent wage and get good benefits,” said Baltimore, Md., Local 24 member Horace Ellis. Ellis travelled to the rally with a contingent of Local 24 members.

Several workers who were fired during campaigns to organize their workplace addressed the unionists.  One participant, a nurse who belongs to the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, underscored the benefits that can be enjoyed by workers and businesses alike when workers rights to form unions are recognized. Three months after her employer, Kaiser Permanente agreed to a neutrality clause—agreeing not to interfere with an organizing campaign—a bargaining unit was organized.  Today, a management-labor partnership has improved the lives of union members, the quality of care of patients and Kaiser’s viability.

“This is our day.  We finally see that we have a chance for equal rights in our workplaces,” said Butch Ramos, a 37-year IBEW member and president of Washington, D.C., Local 26 who stood near the podium, wearing a union jacket.  Joining Ramos was Ron Stokes, a 45-year member, now retired.  “I’m here because I’m enjoying my pension,” said Stokes.  “After all these years, I’ll support the IBEW ‘till the day I die.”






Photos by Tim Prendergast 2009