4:48 PM Eastern - Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Thousands Rally on Capitol Hill to Turn Up the Heat on Employee Free Choice Act

EmployeeFreeChoiceRally_300px.jpgThousands of union members and allies gathered on Capitol Hill today to kick off the delivery of 1.5 million signatures in support of the Employee Free Choice Act to members of Congress.

Senator Tom Harkin, Congressman George Miller, union members, and progressive organizations joined the workers to showcase the widespread public support for the legislation that will give workers back the freedom to bargain for better wages and benefits.

"The right to organize is a basic human right and no one should be able to take that away," said Sen. Harkin, speaking out about why this legislation is so important for workers and making our economy work for everyone-not just those at the top.

[...] "Unions made the middle class. Don't believe me? Look up 'middle class' in the dictionary and you'll see it says 'see unions,'" joked Sen. Harkin.

Head of the United Steel Workers Leo Gerard acted as master of ceremonies, introducing other labor leaders including SEIU's Andy Stern, CWA President Larry Cohen and the AFL-CIO's John Sweeney.

But the main focus of today's rally was union members from all different sectors who came to Washington, DC to give first-hand testimony about their efforts to form a union--workers who've been harassed, intimidated, and fired from their jobs for trying to improve their working conditions, wages, and benefits by forming a union.

TheoJacksonRally_sm.jpg"I'm putting a face on all of the members," SEIU's Theo Jackson told a reporter before sharing his story first at today's rally. Jackson was a case manager--and a two-time Employee of the Month--at a substance abuse recovery center in Scotts Valley, CA before being fired for trying to form a union. "When companies do something, nobody knows, they want the people who get fired to slink away in shame. The very next day, I was in front of the gate, waving at the executive director." (Read Theo's story here)

We heard from Theresa Gars, a New Jersey school bus driver: "I don't think any worker out there is a dime a dozen," she said, speaking of her employers threats that she and her coworkers could--and would--be easily replaced if they were to form a union with TWA. "There's no reason to be scared when you're standing up for something you believe in," she said, eliciting a huge cheer from fellow rally attendees.

Acela Espiritu, an RN from California, took the podium to speak about her successful organizing campaign with AFSCME at an Orange County Kaiser Permanente facility and the benefits that both employees and management gained from having a union. "This is not a Republican-Democrat issue," Espiritu said. "It is an American issue. Passing Employee Free Choice equals worker empowerment."

Watch video highlights from this rally:

Vice President Biden has gone on the record about the timeline for passing the Employee Free Choice Act, saying it will happen this calendar year. But corporate lobbyists are mounting an unrelenting campaign to defeat this bill and we need your grassroots power to fight back and push for the passage of Employee Free Choice Act. In order to accomplish this, the Million-Member Mobilization Campaign has set a new goal: 2 million signatures before Congress goes on its February break.

Join the movement by adding your name to the petition to support Employee Free Choice Act .

To view more photos from the petition delivery rally this afternoon, visit SEIU's Flickr page.

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