But the fundamental right to organize a union is under attack. Every day, employers harass, intimidate, and fire workers who are trying to form a union and improve their working conditions. When faced with organizing campaigns, 30% of employers fired pro-union workers, 49% threatened to close a worksite, and 91% forced employees to attend one-on-one anti-union meetings with their supervisors.
Over time, our labor system has become outdated and tilted in favor of employers who are able to violate the law with little to no penalties. For example, in 2005, the average amount employers gave in backpay to a worker who was illegally fired was $2,667. For most employers, that paltry amount is like a slap on the wrist – well worth the intended result of intimidating the rest of the workforce from continuing their organizing efforts.
Even after workers successfully form a union, employers can prolong negotiations for a first contract. It is estimated that only 38% of unions certified through the NLRB election process result in a first contract after one year, and only 56% after two years.
We need your help in urging Congress to pass the Employee Free Choice Act (S. 560, H.R. 1409). This important legislation would restore and strengthen the right of workers to form unions and bargain collectively by:
- Allowing workers the choice to organize a union through a simple majority sign-up process,
- Raising penalties when employers violate the law, and
- Promoting a mediation and arbitration option to guarantee productive first contract negotiations.
FACTS ON APA WORKERS
- 1 out of 5 Asian American women works in a low-wage service occupation.
- Over 10% of Asian Pacific Americans live below the poverty line.
- More than 10% of Asian American workers belong to a union.
- Employers threaten to call the Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) in 52% of all organizing efforts involving undocumented workers.
- Over half of U.S. workers – nearly 60 million people – say they would join a union if they could.
- Contrary to what the opposition might say, the Employee Free Choice Act does not eliminate secret ballot elections. It simply gives workers another choice – majority sign-up.
- The Employee Free Choice Act has the support of 73% of the American public.
How would EFCA impact the APA community?
For too long, employers have manipulated the labor system, making fear and intimidation of workers a regular part of the process. What is at stake for Asian Pacific American (APA) workers, who represent the fastest growing segment of the American workforce, is their fundamental right to participate in a union selection process that is free of intimidation and abuse, and their ability to bring greater justice and equality to the workplace.
Today, over 10% of Asian American workers belong to a union. But, without a change in our laws, millions of workers are at risk of losing their best hope for obtaining economic security and equal opportunity. Today, unions:
- Raise wages for workers: Asian American union members make 4% more than nonunion Asian American workers – a difference of approximately $3,000 dollars a year.
- Reduce income inequality: The impact of unions is even greater for low- and middle-wage workers. Although the typical union worker earns 30% more than a non-union worker, the union advantage in lower wage jobs such as those in the broader service occupations can be as high as 58%. In 2008, 1 out of 5 Asian American women worked in a low-wage service occupation.
- Improve benefits: While workers in unions are 59% more likely than nonunion workers to have employer-provided health insurance, nearly half of Asian Pacific American workers have no health insurance.
- Protect against unfair working conditions: Through collective bargaining agreements and representation of workers, unions can protect workers including immigrants from unjust terminations, discriminatory treatment, and other unfair work conditions that federal and state laws often do not protect against.
The Employee Free Choice Act is about making sure workers have the freedom to unite on the job and bargain with their employers for better wages, benefits, and working conditions. It is about preserving the American Dream, rebuilding the middle class, and ensuring that the economy works for everyone.