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Guilds sign up for union legislation

SAG, WGA announce support for bill

SAG, the WGA West and the WGA East have announced support for a bill to allow workers to form unions by signing up instead of voting.

Thursday’s endorsement came in the wake of the House Education and Labor Committee voting to support the Employee Free Choice Act, requiring employers to recognize unions after a majority of workers have signed pro-union cards or a petition. The Bush administration is opposing the measure; VP Dick Cheney has said President Bush will veto the bill and asserted that secret ballots are needed to prevent intimidation of workers.

Current law allows employers to require a government-supervised election after workers sign up in support of unionizing. But backers of the legislation contend the current election process is unfair because elections often take several months, employers often fire workers illegally prior to the election and union organizers can be denied access to the workplace while workers can be required to attend anti-union meetings.

SAG and the WGA said the legislation “mends the current dysfunctional bargaining system and levels the playing field between employers and employees by supplying workers with essential tools to make their own powerful voices heard, without fear of corporate intimidation, harassment, or retribution.”

The unions also noted the legislation could have had a significant impact on last year’s strike by a dozen writers on “America’s Next Top Model,” who were seeking a WGA contract.

“Because the show would cease production before a Natl. Labor Relations Board election could be held, they had no real alternative but to go on strike, which ultimately led to their replacement and loss of their jobs,” the statement said. “Had Congress’s Employee Choice Act been in place, the final outcome would have been much different. Continuing their shared commitment to organizing, the WGAW, WGAE, and SAG believe this is a vivid example of how such an empowering bill could positively affect the lives and livelihoods of writers and actors – and all American workers hoping to collectively bargain with their employers for a better life.”

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