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Restoring Our Right
to Join a Union


Issues Briefing


• The U.S. National Health Insurance Act (HR 676)

• The Battle to Defend Good Jobs

• Defending Overtime Pay and Paid Time-Off

• Restoring Our Right to Join a Union 

• Iraq Occupation and the Federal Budget Disaster

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Working people won the right to organize and belong to a labor union through the National Labor Relations Act (Wagner Act) in 1936. The mass labor organizing upsurge and strike waves of the 1930s overcame the ferocious opposition of the employers and their front-men in Congress to achieve this basic human right. With some notable exceptions, most employers came to abide by the law that provided for a swift and orderly process by which workers selected their union and bargained union contracts.

But beginning in the 1970s — and accelerating right up to the present — more and more employers chose to violate the law and prevent or disrupt the organizing attempts of their workforces. This growing employer violation of the law has been aided and abetted by a federal government that has failed miserably to enforce the law. Not surprisingly, the number of workers able to organize into unions through the current process is declining.


Today, employers brazenly smash union organizing drives and strikes with little fear of government prosecution. The labor law as mandated by the NLRA is no longer strong enough to protect workers’ rights, and the enforcement of the law has broken down. To respond to this human rights crisis, the labor movement has convinced members of Congress to introduce sweeping legislation to restore some balance to this arena. 

In late November 2003, the Employee Free Choice Act (HR3619/S1925) was introduced into Congress. This law would provide for recognition of a union through an uncoerced card-check process, and would allow for the mediation and arbitration of first-contract negotiations. Stronger penalties are also provided for employer violations the law.


Our union has warned of the "labor rights emergency" for several decades now. UE has supported sweeping labor law reform as a key solution to this crisis facing working people, even when the bulk of the labor movement failed to do so. Our union has ample first-hand experience with employers who illegally smash UE organizing drives and deny the basic rights of their employees.

The introduction of the Employee Free Choice Act provides working people with a valuable tool to engage lawmakers on this critical subject. The Jobs with Justice/December 10, 2003 day of action in support of the right to organize provided good momentum to this legislation.


  • The decline of wages and living standards for U.S. working people can be directly connected to the destruction of our right to organize and bargain collectively.
  • Employers fire, harass, and terrorize thousands of working people each year for attempting to form unions.
  • Of those groups of workers who manage to win a National Labor Relations Board election, only half of them will win a first union contract; only half of those will go on to win a second union contract.
  • For additional information on this labor and human rights disgrace please take the time now to review the attached article, "Fact Sheet: Employer Interference by the Numbers."

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