Committee on Education and Labor : U.S. House of Representatives

Press Releases

House Approves Employee Free Choice Act
Legislation Would Strengthen America's Middle Class by

Helping Workers Bargain for Better Pay, Benefits

Thursday, March 1, 2007


WASHINGTON, DC -- The U.S. House of Representatives today approved legislation that would enable workers to bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions by restoring their rights to form unions. The legislation is a key part of House Democrats' overall goal of strengthening America's middle class.

The Employee Free Choice Act, a bipartisan bill sponsored by Reps. George Miller (D-CA) and Robert Andrews (D-NJ), would reform a broken union election process in which employers frequently intimidate, harass, reassign, or even fire workers who support the formation of a union.

"We all know that workers in the U.S. are among the most productive workers in the world. Yet for far too long, they have not been reaping the benefits of their hard work," said Miller, the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. "There are a lot of explanations for the growing inequality in our economy. But perhaps the most significant explanation is that workers' rights to join together and bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions have been severely undermined. To strengthen America's middle class, we have got to restore these rights."

Under the Employee Free Choice Act, if a majority of workers in a workplace sign cards authorizing a union, then the workers would get a union. This majority sign-up process is permitted under current law, but only if the employer allows it. Many employers instead force employees to undergo an election process administered by the National Labor Relations Board. In NLRB elections, the deck is stacked heavily against pro-union workers.

For example, while the employer can discuss the union with its employees anytime - on company property, and even in one-on-one meetings - union advocates are severely restricted in their ability to communicate with workers. Moreover, these elections are wide open to abuse by employers. The Center for Economic and Policy Research recently estimated that employers fire one in five workers who actively advocate for a union. A December 2005 study by American Rights at Work found that 49 percent of employers studied had threatened to close or relocate all or part of the business if workers elected to form a union. In fact, in 2005 alone, over 30,000 workers received back pay from employers that illegally fired or otherwise discriminated against them for their union activities. 

In addition to allowing workers to form a union through majority sign-up, the Employee Free Choice Act would also:

  • Stiffen penalties against employers that illegally fire or discriminate against workers for their union activity during an organizing or first contract drive, including requiring employers to pay treble back pay to workers whom they are found to have illegally fired; and
  • Allow employers and newly formed unions to refer bargaining to mediation and, if necessary, binding arbitration if they are not able to agree on a first contract after 90 days of bargaining.

Giving workers the ability to bargain for better wages and benefits is a key part of strengthening America's middle class. Union workers earn 30 percent more, on average, than do nonunion workers, and union workers are much more likely to have health care, pensions, and more generous paid time off. A recent Hart Research poll for the AFL-CIO found that 69 percent of Americans support the Employee Free Choice Act.


Click here for text of Chairman Miller's prepared remarks for today?s debate.

Click here for a summary of the Employee Free Choice Act.

Click here for complete information on the legislation.


Contact: Tom Kiley / Rachel Racusen
2181 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515