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Consumer groups call on Congress to support Employee Free Choice Act and help rebuild the middle class

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Release Date: December 19, 2008
Contact: 202-835-3323,  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Washington, DC, December 19, 2008 — A coalition of seven consumer groups today announced their support for the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), expected to be reintroduced in 111thCongress, to “strengthen consumer protections, stop predatory lending practices, provide remedies, and ensure that workers’ hard earned wages go to supporting their families and communities.”

In a letter to members of Congress, the groups — the National Consumers League (www.nclnet.org), the National Association of Consumer Advocates (www.naca.org), Public Citizen  (www.citizen.org), Consumer Action (www.consumer-action.org), ACORN (www.acorn.org), Consumers for Auto Safety and Reliability (www.carconsumers.com), and the Alliance for Justice (www.afj.org) — argued that the EFCA (H.R. 800, S. 1041 in the 110th Congress) legislation that passed the U.S. House of Representatives in 2007 but failed to pass in the Senate, and is broadly supported by labor unions, is good for both consumers and workers.

“Corporate greed, mass foreclosures, insurmountable consumer debt, unemployment rates, and the other symptoms of our economic crisis have made for a culture of insecurity for both consumers and workers,” said Sally Greenberg, Executive Director of National Consumers League, a consumer group formed in 1899 to advance the interests of both consumers and workers. “As consumer organizations, we believe that it is essential to make connections between consumers and workers, especially in this economic downturn. It is in the interest of consumers to rebuild the middle class in America, and the Employee Free Choice Act is a good start. It is time for Congress to address the needs of the hardworking Americans on Main Street, not just the corporate interests on Wall Street.”

In their letter to Congress, the consumer groups argued that EFCA will help restore fairness to workers by giving them a path to union organizing, helping secure contracts in reasonable timeframes, and toughening penalties of companies who violate worker rights.

Excerpts from the letter follow:

The Employee Free Choice Act will restore the right of workers to join together to get better health care, job security, and benefits – and an opportunity to pursue their dreams. We firmly believe the Employee Free Choice Act is good for consumers, for workers, and for American society. When workers – who are also consumers - enjoy the benefits of a unionized workforce, their standard of living rises and they can participate more fully in what our economic system has to offer.

The current crisis in our financial markets shows what happens when corporate greed is allowed to go unchecked - and consumers and workers unfortunately pay the price.  The Employee Free Choice Act will help level the playing field for America’s workers by giving them a fair and direct path to form unions. Consumer groups ask for your support for this important legislation.

The Employee Free Choice Act will help restore fairness and the American dream by:

(1) Giving workers a fair and direct path to form unions through majority sign-up. EFCA would require an employer to recognize its employees’ union when a majority has signed union authorization cards.  Under current law, management can refuse to recognize a union even when 100 percent of employees have signed authorization cards.  After a majority of workers have signed cards, an employer can still call for a separate election.  Under the current system, then, the employer gets to decide whether a separate election is necessary.

(2) Helping employees secure a contract with their employer in a reasonable period of time. Under current law, anti-union employers often drag workers through lengthy negotiations by delaying bargaining sessions, withholding relevant information, and putting forth bogus proposals.  Even though these tactics are illegal, there are no effective deterrents to prevent “surface bargaining.” The Employee Free Choice Act will strengthen workers’ ability to achieve a first contract within a reasonable period of time.

(3) Toughening penalties against employers who violate their workers' rights. Too many unscrupulous employers get away with breaking labor laws because the current penalties are too weak.  The Employee Free Choice Act would increase penalties against employers who illegally fire or retaliate against pro-union workers.

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About the National Consumers League
The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.