Union petitions Congress for vote on majority signup

Andy Stern, president of the 2.5-million-member Service Employees International Union, launched a national petition drive today to insist that both the House and Senate schedule an up or down vote on allowing workers to form a union by majority signup, either as part of the Employee Free Choice Act or as a separate amendment.

By late morning the petition to Congress had reached, via e-mail, more than 100,000 trade unionists and their supporters.

To sign the petition .

The move comes after a series of speculative reports in the media late last week and early this week that claimed labor friendly senators were poised to “drop” the majority signup provision of the Employee Free Choice Act in order to ensure a 60 vote filibuster-proof majority for the measure. See

Stories in the People's Weekly World indicated that the latest “compromises” were among many ideas floated by a group of senators who feel that they can both preserve the intent of the majority signup provision – giving workers and not employers the real choice of whether they want a union – and, at the same time win support from Blue Dog Democrats who say they favor labor law reform but want to maintain the “privacy” of elections.

Stern had indicated last Friday, when reports about the “dropping” of majority signup (also called card check) first appeared, that “the Employee Free Choice Act is going through the usual legislative process and we expect a vote on the majority signup provision in the final bill or by amendment in both houses of Congress.”

A spokesman for Sen. Tom Harkin , D-Iowa, who has been shepherding the EFCA through Congress, told the World, at the time, that “nothing” had been agreed to.

John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, said confidently, also at that time, “A bill will be signed into law this year giving workers – not their bosses – the choice about how to form a union.”

When he released his petition online today Stern said, “By giving workers the fair choice to join unions and not their bosses, majority signup allows workers to have a voice on the job. Congress needs to hear about your support for majority signup.”

There is concern in the labor movement that unless a way can be found to modify the majority signup provision of the bill, without sacrificing the “core principal” of giving the workers the actual choice of whether they want union representation, the EFCA, as a whole, would be vulnerable to a Republican filibuster.

Sen. Harkin has said he will not agree to any measure that does not uphold three basic principals – workers getting the right to make an unhampered choice, stiffer penalties for companies that violate labor law, and provisions for arbitration when employers drag their feet in negotiations. The labor movement is, of course, in agreement.

Business groups, who have spent millions campaigning against and strong arming people in Congress to vote against the EFCA say that they remain adamantly opposed to the bill, even without the majority signup provision.

Harkin has also said that if there is any move to gut any of the core principals he has the assurance of Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, that the full original measure will be brought up to the floor for an up or down vote, so “everyone can see where each senator stands.”

“Majority signup is based on a simple idea,” Stern said in his call for signatures on the petition. “If a majority of workers say they want a union, they should get a union. It’s the best way to make sure workers have a full and free choice to join a union without interference or harassment.”

As he launched the petition drive he took a slap at “corporate greed.”

“We’ve just heard that Bank of America has earned billions in profits. Goldman Sachs made $38 million a day in the last three months. The EFCA is about fairness,” Stern said. “It's important that both the House and Senate consider majority signup. Workers want to see where Congress stands on a common sense idea to level the playing field against corporate greed.”

jwojcik @ pww.org