Florida workers rally for EFCA

By Joe Richard

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.--More than 200 union members, supporters and families rallied outside the Hyatt hotel here on the scorching hot afternoon of May 17 to protest union busting and demand that Congress pass the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).

Inside the hotel, the Council for a Union-Free Environment (CUE) was beginning one of its bi-annual conferences on how to resist unionization and manipulate the National Labor Relations Act.

CUE was formed in 1977, in order to "meet the need for a single-purpose organization dedicated to assisting companies desiring to remain union-free." As its Web site boasts, "CUE has just under 300 member companies, both union and union-free, representing a cross-section of business and industry, from small firms to Fortune 500 companies." This conference was specifically focused on the Employee Free Choice Act, bearing the slogan "Change is here. Are you ready?"

The featured speakers and the names of the workshops at the conference speak for themselves. They included Randy Johnson, vice president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce (who formulates Chamber strategy in opposition to "union-driven initiatives such as card check legislation, ergonomics and blacklisting regulations"). Tom Lavalle, human resources manager for General Electric (GE), gave a presentation entitled "Downsizing with Dignity and Respect." Various pro-management law firms were also represented, (including Frost, Brown and Todd, which represents UPS, AK Steel, GE and Chase Bank in their labor disputes).

Outside, members of dozens of local unions marched and chanted, "Union busting is disgusting." When one of the CUE conference attendees came outside to taunt the crowd, Dustin Ponder, a restaurant worker from Gainesville, Fla., grabbed the bullhorn and testified about how he had been fired for organizing at his job (along with three of his coworkers) the day before. "Have you ever worked a day in your life and walked in our shoes? These are people's sons and daughters being fired just for asking for enough to live," Ponder said.

Participating unions included the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Teamsters, AFSCME, Office and Professional Employees International Union. International Workers of the World, Amalgamated Transit Union, International Longshoreman's Association, and many others. Additionally, local members of the NAACP, the National Organization for Women, the Florida Labor Party and the Democratic Party came out to show their support. Members of the International Socialist Organization were also a driving force in planning and mobilizing for the rally.

This broad-based mobilization for the passage of EFCA is what is needed, and what has been lacking in the labor movement's approach to winning the legislation, especially now considering the official pronouncement by leading Democrats that "card check is dead"--stripping the bill of one of its most important components.

Labor should rely on its members' dedication and their massive numbers to mobilize publicly for the passage of the bill, rather than lobbying in Congress, which has proven itself time and again as the sure way for labor to lose.