Young Democratic Socialists Focus on EFCA

By David Duhalde

bostonYDS-efca Grassroots support is critical to the success of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). That’s why the the Young Democratic Socialists (YDS) has mobilized for EFCA with local and national activism.  YDS has collaborated with the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) (our parent organization), Jobs with Justice, and the Student Economic Justice Action Coalition (SEJAC)  in this effort.  The labor movement needs outside allies like these organizations to push reforms like Employee Free Choice. Otherwise, organized labor will continue to be viewed as a “special interest,” not a social movement creating good beyond its membership.

Together with DSA, YDS has produced two fliers on the bill (here and here). The literature articulates that trade unions — at their best — bring democracy to the workplace. Our belief in economic and workplace democracy coincides with our support of this legislation. We favor unions to increase the power of workers against capital.

Erik Rosenberg

Erik Rosenberg

This spring, YDS National Organizer Erik Rosenberg spoke to seven chapters about Employee Free Choice and how it can help mitigate this economic crisis. Stops on the tour included Colorado, with its undecided senators, and Michigan and Ohio with their deep union history. In Boulder, Erik  spoke on a panel with a worker who’d been fired for attempting to form a union. The nonprofit he worked for was convicted for twelve unfair labor practices. The punishment: an apology posted in the form of a flyer. With EFCA, the employer would have been fined up to $25,000 per violation and the worker would have been entitled to up to triple back pay.

Rosenberg also visited chapters at Oak Park River Forest High School in Oak Park, IL, the Meadows School in Las Vegas, NV, Indiana University at Bloomington, and University of California at Berkeley. In a separate event, the University of Colorado at Boulder YDS chapter teamed with Jobs with Justice to bring AFL-CIO organizing director Stuart Acuff for a talk. Acuff jazzed up the crowd of forty, saying EFCA might return labor to the strength it once enjoyed. The group also worked with the nation’s biggest union SEIU to canvass and letter write to pressure US senators Udall and Bennett. Their worked pushed Sen. Udall into supporting the bill.

The Wooster College YDS chapter of Ohio, in alliance with Jobs With Justice, also pressured their senators. They sent 130 pro-EFCA letters to GOP Senator George Voinovich. While their hopes to push Sen. Voinovich came up short, chapter president Dan Buckler said their action was an excellent way to move beyond the “converted” and reach a wider audience to talk about labor law reform.

signing petitions

WSU YDS chapter petitioning

Unions are under constant attack in “right-to-work” Kansas. Wichita State YDS played a critical role in building community support for EFCA. Wichita State YDS Vice-President Jackie Sewell said “outside of YDS, only the unions were pushing EFCA” in Wichita. She added they came up against a “lack of knowledge about the good unions do for the economy and people’s lives.” YDS members also successfully lobbied their student government to endorse a statement in support of campus workers’ right to organize.

In Arkansas, former YDS Coordinating Committee member and current Working America staffer Kenny Grand, facilitated the coming together of community and labor. In the home state of Wal-Mart, Grand organized town hall meetings and canvassing, uniting unions with groups such as ACORN and people of faith. Grand’s efforts have elevated the nascent Conway, Arkansas DSA local into a serious force for EFCA. New members have gone door-to-door and phone banked for the legislation. They also distributed the Economic Justice Agenda, DSA’s topical political vision for short-term economic change, to connect EFCA with broader social justice issues.

Boston DSA’s work has focused on intergenerational activity to build local support for the Employee Free Choice Act. I organized a panel with Jobs With Justice and United for a Fair Economy in February. The discussion featured speakers Elaine Bernard, who stressed the importance of unions to democracy, and Steve Schnapp, who addressed the correlation between unions and social equality. After the event, DSA recruited several young activists. Our group has gotten dozens of signatures for the EFCA petition and participated in rallies for the bill with labor. This success has increased DSA’s profile with the labor movement and community groups.
This major battle for worker rights is far from over. We’ll keep you posted on further efforts by YDS on the legislation.
Please contact us (at www.ydsusa.org) to see how you can get involved!

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