MARLBOROUGH - With a capacity crowd of AFL-CIO union members looking on Thursday morning, Gov. Deval Patrick signed a law designed to make it easier for public sector employees to join unions.
With a capacity crowd of AFL-CIO union members looking on Thursday morning, Gov. Deval Patrick signed a law designed to make it easier for public sector employees to join unions.
Known as the Majority Authorization bill, the new law will allow public sector workers to join unions with a ``card check'' option, rather than secret ballot elections. The law requires employers to recognize a union once a majority of workers signs forms selecting to unionize.
Before a cheering crowd of union members attending the Massachusetts AFL-CIO's 50th constitutional convention in Marlborough, Patrick hailed the legislation as renewing the state's commitment to working families.
``It's been a long, long time since this Commonwealth officially, through new legislation, has upheld a simple principle, and that is that people ought to be able to organize to demand decency in the workplace,'' Patrick said.
Yesterday's signing, though, was just one step.
``We have work to do,'' Patrick said. ``You know it and I know it. There is so much more to do. The workplace has got to work for everyone.''
For millions, though, it doesn't.
Citing studies which show more than 60 million people want to join a union but can't, Patrick said yesterday's signing is a first step toward making sure organized labor improves the lives of millions more workers.
Whether advocating for tighter restrictions on child labor, better working conditions or standard, eight-hour days, Patrick said unions have done much to improve the lives of ordinary workers, and now will be able to do more.
``Working families deserve, deserve affordable, effective health care,'' he said. ``Working families deserve a home they can afford ... as a reward for the toil they put in every day.
``These aren't radical demands ... nobody I've ever known in organized labor is asking for a handout, it's the simple notion of having a fair shot at the American dream, that is what we are about.''
The bill signed yesterday is a modified version of the Employee Free Choice Act, a proposed federal law sponsored by Sen. Edward Kennedy, which earlier this year was voted down by the Senate.
Though the federal law failed to pass, labor leaders hailed yesterday's signing of the law's state version.
``This is why working people fought so hard to elect a governor who would take our concerns to heart,'' said Robert Haynes, president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO. ``We now have a governor in Deval Patrick who ... is committed to improving the quality of life of working people, and we have won a major victory for workers in Massachusetts.''
Peter Reuell of The MetroWest (Mass.) Daily News can be reached at 508-626-4428, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.