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Veterans Join Battle for Employee Free Choice Act

Jeremy Sprinkle
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(Picture) Employee Free Choice mobilizes for freedom to organize

Saying the freedom to organize and form unions is one of many American values for which veterans have fought and died, the AFL-CIO Union Veterans Council and are teaming up to fight for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act.

"The freedom to organize is an American value, one of the many values we veterans fought to protect," said Jon Soltz, Iraq War Veteran, and Chairman of "Past generations of veterans were able to enter the middle class because unions were there to fight for fair wages and benefits. The Employee Free Choice Act ensures that veterans and civilians in the workforce will continue to get a fair shake, which is why we're proud to support it."

The 105,000 member will host events and rallies in a dozen states considered battlegrounds in the effort to get the Employee Free Choice Act passed. Fourteen percent of union members are veterans, some 2.1 million in all. The entry of this important constituency into the debate over the need to reform our labor laws could help wavering Senators decide who they stand with, says reporter Sam Stein of the Huffington Post:

"Considering the respect they engender at home, having these groups and individuals on the frontlines of the pro-EFCA campaign puts a different type of political pressure on those senators whose position on the bill is still up in the air."

The Employee Free Choice Act will return to employees alone the power to decide how and when to form a union. Currently, even when a majority of employees exercise their right to union representation, employers can veto that choice and force them into an election process they control. It's wrong when veterans are denied basic rights at work after fighting for their country, says Chris Lane of Richmond, Virginia:

"When I signed my enlistment papers, my signature was my pledge to fight for freedom and the honor of my country. If my signature was good enough for that, it should be good enough for my government to show that I want a union in my workplace."

Unions give vets a path out of unemployment and low wage jobs

The Department of Veterans Affairs reports that 18 percent of vets recently returned from deployment are unemployed, and 25 percent of vets who do find work earn less than $22,000 a year. "This is an unacceptable situation," says Stephen Jackson, VFW Post 4312 Commander and member of Steelworkers Local 1283, in a recent op-ed published in the Roanoke Rapids Daily Herald:

"The men and women who put their lives on the line to protect our country deserve a chance to be a part of the American dream. They deserve a job that puts food on the table and a roof over the family's heads. They deserve benefits so that they and their families can be healthy and thrive. They deserve the right to join any organization that will help improve their situation. They deserve to have the chance to be a part of the middle class and help rebuild our economy."

Studies show that wages for union workers are 8 percent higher than for their non-union counterparts in North Carolina, and union workers nationwide are 28 percent more likely to have employer-provided health insurance. More unions would bring greater opportunities for returning vets, says Jackson:

"The Employee Free Choice Act will give veterans a better chance when they get back home to get better jobs with better benefits, and a better shot at the middle class. I support the Employee Free Choice Act. It's my way of honoring those who served our country."

Are you a veteran who's been denied your right to form a union free from employer intimidation and retribution? If so, we'd like to hear from you! Give us your feedback at our web site.