The Key to Economic Progress for America's Working Families: Restoring the Freedom to Form Unions

The keynote address will be given by

Congressman George Miller (D-CA), "Restoring the Freedom to Form Unions"

 Welcoming remarks will be delivered by

John Podesta, President and CEO, Center for American Progress


While profits are reaching record highs, the labor market recovery has been the worst since the Great Depression. Thus continues a trend towards greater economic inequality. In this environment, more than forty-two million workers want to form unions to improve their lives. But employers routinely use brutal tactics to deny workers this fundamental right, and the laws meant to protect them are broken and ineffective. Without strong unions, our entire community pays a heavy price: Wages lag, race and gender pay gaps widen and insecurity and poverty increases. Democracy suffers, in the workplace and beyond it. That is why more than 200 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senators have co-sponsored the Employee Free Choice Act, which would allow workers to form unions without the obstacles employers now use to block workers’ free choice. This event highlights the benefits that workers and the economy in general can hope to reap from stronger legal protections to form and join unions.

What Happens to Workers When they
Try to Form Unions

Panelists include:

Rita Chitwood, Truck Manufacturing Worker

Lori Gay, Nurse

Moderated by

Gerron Levi, Deputy Director for the Department of Legislation, AFL-CIO

Featuring a presentation by

Harley Shaiken, Class of 1930 Professor at the University of California-Berkeley, entitled "The High Road to Competitive Economy: A Labor Law Strategy"

Closing remarks will be provided by

David Bonior, Chair, American Rights at Work



Friday, 25 June 2004
Program: 9:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.
Breakfast will be provided.


Mayflower Hotel - Chinese Room
1127 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20036

Click here to register.

or call 202.741.6388


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About the participants:

David E. Bonior is Chair of American Rights at Work, a new non-profit organization dedicated to protecting and promoting workers’ rights to organize and collectively bargain. He also is University Professor of Labor Studies at Wayne State University; and serves on the national Board of Public Citizen and as a member of the Board of Community Central Bank in Mount Clemens, MI. Elected to the U.S House of Representatives in 1976, he served the people of Macomb and St. Clair Counties for 26 years—the longest tenure of any Congressman from this district.  When he retired at the end of 2002, he had held the position of Democratic Whip, the second ranking Democrat in the House, for ten years. His tenure in Congress was marked by a passion for social and economic justice. David Bonior earned a reputation as a strong voice for working families and as a leader on the environment, fair trade, jobs and human and civil rights. Born in Detroit, he attended the University of Iowa, received a Masters Degree in History from Chapman College, served in the Air Force, and worked as a probation officer and adoption caseworker before he was elected to the Michigan Legislature in 1972. David Bonior is the author of two books: The Vietnam Veteran: A History of Neglect and Walking to Mackinac.

Gerron Levi is the Deputy Director for the Department of Legislation at the AFL-CIO. Prior to joining the AFL-CIO, she worked for six years as a senior lobbyist for the Laborer's International Union of North America (LIUNA). At LIUNA, which is one of the 66 unions that make up the AFL-CIO, she worked on construction industry matters: wages, infrastructure, and job creation. Levi also served as a legislative assistant to Senator Fienstein (D-CA) working mostly on Judiciary Committee issues.  She is also a graduate of Howard University Law School.

Congressman George Miller (D-CA) is the Ranking Member on the House Education and the Workforce Committee and serves on the House Resources Committee. Rep. Miller is a leading spokesman in Congress on education, labor, the environment. Miller was also the founding chairman of the House Select Committee on Children,Youth and Families from 1983 through 1991, where he initiated congressional efforts to stop budget cuts against children, nutrition, education, public housing, workplace safety, and health care. Rep. Miller used the committee to promote the concept of “investing” in social programs to save lives and taxpayer dollars. One of Rep. Miller's top priorities is creating jobs and strengthening the economy. He helped develop the Democratic Economic Stimulus Plan and other Democratic jobs initiatives. He is also leading an effort to protect the traditional pension plans of employees at mid-size and large corporations. In 2004 he introduced legislation to increase the minimum wage from 5.15 an hour to $7.00 an hour. He is also one of the leading members of Congress to oppose President Bush’s anti-overtime pay plan. Congressman Miller graduated from Diablo Valley Community College, San Francisco State University, and earned his law degree from the University of California, Davis, Law School.

John Podesta is the president and CEO of the Center for American Progress and visiting professor of law at the Georgetown University Law Center. John served as chief of staff to President William J. Clinton from October 1998 until January 2001, where he was responsible for directing, managing, and overseeing all policy development, daily operations, Congressional relations, and staff activities of the White House. He coordinated the work of cabinet agencies with a particular emphasis on the development of federal budget and tax policy, and served in the President’s Cabinet and as a principal on the National Security Council. From 1997 to 1998 he served as both an Assistant to the President and deputy chief of staff. Earlier, from January 1993 to 1995, he was Assistant to the President, Staff Secretary and a senior policy adviser on government information, privacy, telecommunications security and regulatory policy. Podesta previously held a number of positions on Capitol Hill including: counselor to Democratic Leader Senator Thomas A. Daschle (1995-1996); chief counsel for the Senate Agriculture Committee (1987-1988); chief minority counsel for the Senate Judiciary Subcommittees on Patents, Copyrights, and Trademarks; Security and Terrorism; and Regulatory Reform; and counsel on the Majority Staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee (1979-1981). Podesta is a graduate of Georgetown University Law Center and Knox College.

Harley Shaiken is Class of 1930 Professor and Director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He is a Professor of Social and Cultural Studies at the Graduate School of Education and is a member of the Department of Geography at Berkeley where he specializes on issues of work, technology, and global production. He is on the advisory committee of the Institute for Labor and Employment and the Center for Labor Research and Education at UC-Berkeley. He was formerly on the faculty of the University of California, San Diego (1986-1993). Prior to joining the UC faculty, he was a Research Associate in the Program in Science, Technology, and Society (STS) and the Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity at Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1981 to 1986 and in 1980 was a post doctoral fellow in the STS program at MIT. He is the author of three books: Work Transformed: Automation and Labor in the Computer Age; Automation and Global Production; and Mexico in the Global Economy as well as numerous articles and reports in both scholarly and popular journals. He is an advisor on trade and labor issues to public and private organizations and leading members of the United States Congress. He is a member of the advisory boards of American Rights at Work and the Center for American Progress.

Rita Chitwood is a Freightliner worker from Gastonia, North Carolina who formed a union with the United Auto Workers through a majority verification process.

Lori Gay is a registered nurse of 18 years at Salt Lake Regional Medical Center in Utah currently trying to form a union with United American Nurses.

The Center for American Progress is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to promoting a strong, just and free America that ensures opportunity for all. We believe that Americans are bound together by a common commitment to these values and we aspire to ensure that our national policies reflect these values. We work to find progressive and pragmatic solutions to significant domestic and international problems and develop policy proposals that foster a government that is "of the people, by the people, and for the people."