With all the fighting over health care, labor unions' top legislative priority has faded into the background.
But they plan to use Labor Day, appropriately, to try to reignite some momentum for a bill that would make it easier for workers to organize.
American Rights at Work, a labor coalition, announced today that it will launch a national cable television ad campaign that try to make the case for the Employee Free Choice Act, which would allow unions to bypass secret elections that they claim give a chance for employers to intimidate workers.
Business groups vehemently oppose the bill, calling it anti-democratic. While congressional Democrats and President Obama support the bill, they have not expended a whole lot of political capital trying to push it through, and its prospects for passage remain uncertain.
"It’s an idea that makes America strong," the announcer says in one 30-second spot. "It’s a fair day’s pay for a hard day’s work. It’s health insurance when you’re sick or injured. It’s job security to provide for your family. It’s the fabric of a sound economy. It built the middle class. And it’s what the Employee Free Choice Act is all about."
"Letting workers choose to join a union to earn better pay and benefits," the narrator says. "The Employee Free Choice Act. It's time our economy worked for everyone again."
UPDATE: The AFL-CIO announced this afternoon that Obama will attend the Labor Day picnic in Cincinnati, along with the union federation President John Sweeney and incoming leader Richard Trumka. Vice President Joe Biden said he will march in Pittsburgh's Labor Day parade.
“This Labor Day America’s workers will speak out for fixing our broken health insurance system to make it affordable for working families and for making the economy work for everyone again,” Sweeney said in a statement. “We are pleased that President Obama and Vice President Biden will be spending Labor Day with working families, talking about issues that have such a dramatic impact on our lives.”
The other ad features a series of workers.
"We’re not CEOs making millions," one says. "We don’t have golden parachutes or option plans," another adds.
"What we have is our hands, our hearts and our work ethic," says another. "We are America’s workforce," says the next. "The men and women who keep our economy going," another says. "All we ask for is a level playing field," the final one says.
"The Employee Free Choice Act will let workers choose to form a union to get better pay, health benefits, and job security," the announcer concludes. "Employee Free Choice Act. It’s time the economy worked for everyone again."
“This Labor Day should be considered a turning point for a new era for workers’ rights,” American Rights at Work acting Executive Director Kimberly Freeman said in a statement. “We are redoubling our efforts to show how the Employee Free Choice Act will rebuild the economy and restore workers’ rights. As lawmakers return from the August recess, they will be reminded that Americans see the Employee Free Choice Act as fundamental to meaningful labor law reform and creating an economy that works for everyone. We will not let our leaders forget that a majority of the public is counting on them to pass this critical legislation this year.”
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.