March 1, 2007 - MARKEY URGES PASSING OF THE EMPLOYEE FREE CHOICE ACT

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA), a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, delivered the following statement on the floor of the House of Representatives, urging his colleagues to pass H.R. 800, theEmployee Free Choice Act. His prepared remarks follow below.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 800, the Employee Free Choice Act, and I commend Chairman George Miller for his herculean efforts to move this bill forward and bring it to the House Floor today.

This bill is an important step towards providing Americans with fundamental workplace protections that are long overdue.  When workers have the freedom to join together and bargain collectively, they have the opportunity to secure affordable health care, adequate vacation time and other benefits as part of good faith negotiations with their employers.

Americans are working harder and more efficiently than ever before.  But while productivity has increased, many middle class families continue to struggle to make ends meet, pay the mortgage, afford college for their children, and access affordable health care.

These hardworking families are everyday heroes, but even heroes need help.

The Employee Free Choice Act will help ensure that workers who seek a better future for themselves and their families through union representation are not coerced, intimidated or threatened by employers trying to prevent them from exercising their legal rights.

The bill we are considering today would enable employees to choose – they can choose to go through the current NLRB election process, or they can choose a card-check process designed to insulate them from intimidation.  If a majority of employees choose to sign cards in support of union representation, the employer must abide by that decision and certify the union if the NLRB validates their majority.   

While the card-check route to union representation is permitted under current law, employers have the choice to reject the results.

In other words, under current law, it’s the EMPLOYER’S choice.  Under the Employee Free Choice Act, it’s the EMPLOYEE’S choice.

This bill is urgently needed because some employers choose to fight unionization by intimidating workers, threatening to fire pro-union employees or close the plant.  Making union certification mandatory when a majority of employees sign union cards would prevent illegal tactics intended to crush workers’ efforts to bargain collectively.

James Madison famously wrote that “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”  Mr. Speaker, if all companies were angels, this bill would not be necessary.  

Unfortunately, while some enlightened companies currently recognize the legitimacy of a union when a majority of their employees sign union cards, many do not.

Now is the time is the time to give Americans the power they need to improve conditions in the workplace.  

President Roosevelt told us:  “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

The Employee Free Choice Act is consistent with the American ideal that everyone – not just the privileged few – deserves the opportunity to improve their condition in life and build a bright, optimistic future for their children.

I urge an “Aye” vote and commend Chairman Miller for his work on this important legislation.