From U.S. Senate candidate Steve Novick:
There was a time in America when the standard of living was rising for everybody. When CEOs didn't make 400 times what the average worker made. When the richest 1 percent of Americans did not eat up 20 percent of national income.
That time was, roughly, the period 1947 to 1973. Not coincidentally, during that time, labor unions represented a much larger share of the nation's workforce than they do today.
I know that some people think that unions are old-fashioned. But some truths are not old; they aren't new; they are timeless. And one of those timeless truths is this: The only way that regular folks can get a fair deal from the rich and powerful is if they band together and stand together. And that, my friends, is what unions are all about.
Over the past 30 years or so, the power of organized labor to get workers a fairer deal has declined. Partly, that's because of foreign competition (aided by trade agreements slanted toward the interests of capital rather than labor); partly, it's because of the decline of employment in traditionally unionized industries.
But partly, it's because of the law. In the early 1970s, many American corporations were in a mood to break the social contract that had prevailed in the postwar period – and they realized that the law made it easy to break the contract. The Wagner Act, the basic labor law, never had serious penalties for companies who illegally fire workers for trying to organize. If you can prove you were fired illegally, you get back pay, minus anything you made at another job. That means that a company can fire the leaders of an organizing drive at minimal risk. Starting in the 1970s, many corporations began to take advantage of that fact. They also took advantage of the many opportunities the drawn out American union election process affords employers to threaten and intimidate workers.
Based on my eight years of experience in the Federal Justice Department, enforcing environmental laws, I know that a law isn't much use unless there are penalties for breaking it. The Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act made huge progress in cleaning up America's air and water – dramatically increasing the number of lakes and rivers that are swimmable and fishable, dramatically reducing the number of 'unhealthy air days' in majorities – largely because, of you violate either Act, you may pay a penalty of up to $25,000 per day per violation.
So one of the first things I will do, once I am in the Senate, is sign up as a cosponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act. EFCA imposes real penalties for breaking the law. It simplifies the election process. It gives working Americans a real chance to band together and stand together, and negotiate a fairer deal once again.
EFCA passed the House of Representatives this year. But it stalled in the Senate because the Republicans – including Gordon Smith – filibustered it.
That's one of the main reasons I have for running against Gordon Smith. The people who brought us the weekend need our help … so they can keep helping all of us.