The Employee Free Choice Act -- introduced in the House last night by Congressman George Miller and expected to be introduced in the Senate by Edward Kennedy soon -- brings fresh hope to millions of America’s workers who desperately want and need the free choice to join or form a union to improve their families’ lives.

America isn’t working the way it should for working families. Income inequality is growing. The middle class is shrinking. Working people are barely keeping up. They’re struggling to pay for health care and worried about retirement. Ordinary Americans are being left behind by today’s economy.

The best opportunity for working women and men to get ahead economically is by coming together with their co-workers to bargain with their employer for a better life – through a union. In fact, government statistics show that working men and women who have a union today make 30 percent more than workers who do not have a union, and they are far more likely to have health insurance and retirement plans.

The benefits of workers uniting to bargain for a better life are clear – that’s why more than half of workers -- 60 million -- who don’t already have a union say they would join one today if given the chance.

Yet far too few working people ever get that chance. The current system for forming unions and bargaining is badly broken. Every day corporations harass, intimidate and even fire people who try to form unions to bargain for better wages and benefits. They deny employees the freedom to decide for themselves whether to form unions. And when they do that, they deny working men and women the freedom to pursue a better life. We must change the system.

The Employee Free Choice Act is common-sense legislation that will help restore workers’ freedom to form unions and bargain with their employers. It strengthens penalties for companies that break the law by coercing or intimidating employees. It establishes a third-party mediation and arbitration process when employers and employees can’t agree on a first contract. And it enables employees to form unions when a majority express their decision to join the union by signing authorization cards.

I urge Congress to pass the Employee Free Choice Act without delay and to restore workers’ free choice on whether to form unions and bargain. The future of America’s working families depends on it.