Franken, the Fourth of July, and Worker’s Rights

Finally: Al Franken has been seated in the US Senate. After a grueling recount process, former Sen. Norm Coleman finally conceded defeat and congratulated Franken on his Senate victory in Minnesota. With the Democrats securing 60 Senate votes, the media has focused on how important this is to the passage of national health care reform. But it means a lot more.

With the Fourth of July having just passed, the union movement reminded us not only to celebrate the freedoms we have, but also the freedoms for which we are still fighting.

One place Americans could use more freedom is in the workplace. We need to balance the worker’s right to be treated with dignity versus the authority an employer needs to run the business profitably. For a generation the balance has tipped far too heavily in favor of the employer. 
Millions of workers don’t have health care, pensions and sufficient salaries to make ends meet. It seems only CEOs and investment bankers get to enjoy these necessities. 

One small step to remedy this is the Employee Free Choice Act. 
 This law, which is pending in Congress, will give power to the people who do the real work of our society the right to organize unions, which will give workers have a voice. Shouldn’t the people who build our cities, staff hospitals, harvest produce, take care of the sick and elderly, build homes and office buildings, etc. have some say over their working conditions and pay?

Franken is expected to fully support for the Employee Free Choice Act, which will bring workers closer to gaining their freedom to form unions and bargain for a better life.

If you want to find out more about the EECA click here.

John Atlas is president of the National Housing Institute.

Editor’s Note: This piece has been modified from its original form, first appearing on the NJ Voices blog on

John Atlas is a founder of Shelterforce and board chair emeritus. He is the producer of ACORN and the Firestorm, a film directed by Reuben Atlas and Sam Pollard and author of SEEDS OF CHANGE: The Story of ACORN, America's Most Controversial Anti-Poverty Community Group. He is also the former executive director of the Passaic County Legal Aid Society.


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