The AFGE National Executive Council and AFGE activists were on Capitol Hill May 9 to show support for the rollout of a bill introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Workplace Democracy Act, that would strengthen workers' rights to organize for better wages, affordable healthcare, retirement security, and better working conditions.
Sanders drew a huge applause with his opening remarks: “Thank you for being here in D.C. One of the problems with our country and our government is that these buildings here in D.C. get overrun by lobbyists who are working night and day at six or seven figure salaries in order to represent the 1 percent and billionaires. It is delightful to see working people here in the people’s building. Thank you!”
The senator from Vermont told the crowd of union members and allies that, "We are gonna end the corporate efforts to make it virtually impossible for workers to form unions.”
His bill would make it easier for workers to form unions through a majority sign up process and ensure companies can’t prevent a union from forming by denying a first contract.
AFGE President J. David Coz Sr. spoke at the event and introduced Senator Sanders.
More than a dozen lawmakers signed on to co-sponsor Sanders’ bill, including Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California, and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives.
To Sanders and supporters of the bill, unionizing is a no-brainer: According to data released from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, union workers’ wages are 27% higher than of nonunion workers. 79% of unionized workers receive health insurance from their employers, compared to only 49% of nonunion workers. 76% of union workers have guaranteed defined-benefit pension plans, compared to only 16% of nonunion workers, and 83% of union workers receive paid sick leave compared to only 62% of nonunion workers.
“In order to strengthen America's middle class, we must make it a priority to restore workers' rights to bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions. That is the goal of the Workplace Democracy Act,” said Rep. Pocan.
Unions have always been the best pathway for a voice in the workplace, and AFGE is proud to be the largest union represent our federal workforce.
“We believe strongly that the answer to every problem in this country is more union members!” Cox told the gathering. “Pay inequity, discrimination, workers’ rights, safety on the job, the answer is more union members!”
Cox also led the chant “More union members!” and the singing of Solidarity Forever.
Systematic union busting
The labor movement has been under attack by corporate interests and the wealthiest 1% who stand to benefit from low wages. For decades, employers have fought unionizing efforts using various tactics to harass and intimidate workers who want to unionize. According to a report from the Economic Policy Institute:
- 1 in 5 to 1 in 7 union organizers or activists can expect to be fired as a result of their efforts to unionize their coworkers.
- About a third of employers fire workers during an organizing campaigns to disrupt the campaign and intimidate workers.
- 57% of private sector employers threaten to shut down the worksite if employees unionize. The same percentage threaten to cut wages and benefits.
Sanders’ and Pocan’s bills are urgently needed if we are to protect our democracy and make sure our economy works for everyone.
Protecting our voice at work
If you haven’t joined AFGE, join us today. If you’re already a member, ask a coworker to join us and send a message to union busters that we will not be silenced.