Last week the House of Representatives passed an important piece of legislation that will serve as a great victory for America's middle and working class families. By a vote of 241-185, we passed the Employee Free Choice Act (H.R. 800), which protects workers' rights to organize and bargain for fair wages and working conditions.

Millions of American families are better off because of unions. Historically, America's labor movement has led the fight to protect working families, winning protections such as the 40-hour work week, health and safety standards, and access to health care and retirement benefits that have helped not only union members but all workers.

Many workers would like to join a union so they have collective power to negotiate for fair pay, decent benefits and workplace safety, but often they are harassed, intimidated or even fired by their employers if they express support for a union. This legislation will make sure that when workers choose to form a union, the employer will recognize the union.

The Employee Free Choice Act provides for certification of a union if a majority of workers sign authorizations designating the union as their bargaining representative. The Act also allows either a union or employer engaged in bargaining for their first contract to refer their dispute to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service for mediation and if necessary to binding arbitration if they are unable to reach agreement within 90 days. Although currently employers are required to bargain in good faith, a recent study found that 34% of union election victories had not resulted in a first contract.

In addition, the legislation strengthens penalties against employers for violations against employees attempting to organize a union or negotiate a first contract. Last year alone, more that 30,000 workers were receiving back pay from their employers because they had been discriminated against.

Many corporate special interest groups are attacking my fellow Democrats and me for standing up to the Bush Administration and defending American workers. We will not cave in to their pressure. Democrats will continue to do the right thing for all Americans, not just the privileged few who have benefited from this Administration's disastrous economic policies.