California unions rally for EFCA

May 15, 2009

LOS ANGELES--Union and community leaders held a 24-hour vigil at the Federal Building downtown to draw attention to the need for Congress to pass the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA)--federal legislation that would make it easier for workers to join unions, and thereby earn better wages, health care and retirement benefits.

Vigils were also held at federal buildings in San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento and Fresno.

The events were planned in response to the rising heat of the campaign--funded with hundreds of millions of dollars from corporations like Wal-Mart--to stop EFCA. About 600 people visited the site of the LA during the 24 hours.

One of the focuses was to gather signatures to urge California Sen. Dianne Feinstein to support EFCA. She is the one remaining Democrat from the California congressional delegation who has yet to support EFCA.

As Maria Elena Durazo, executive secretary-treasurer of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, put it: "Our country is facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and without a doubt, this recovery is going to take time...[A] signature is enough to join the military, but not to join a union."

Other speakers were workers who spoke of the difficult process they encountered in trying to form unions at their workplaces. Others spoke about being recently fired for their organizing efforts.

Fernando Ramirez, an organizer for the Service Employees International Union, said in an interview: "We need a movement around EFCA like the immigrant rights movement had against HR 4437. Big banks like Bank of America are getting huge federal bailouts while, at the same time, using our dollars to organize against workers by blocking EFCA."

Ramirez also noted : "The Smithfield workers are a great example for why we need EFCA. These workers fought for 16 years to get union recognition. EFCA would make it much easier and safer for workers to create a union to help them organize and fight for their rights."

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