Hello, my name is Ramona Ripston and I am the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. I am here to lend the support of 40,000 ACLU members to passing the Employee Free Choice Act. Our roots are in the labor movement. The ACLU of Southern California was founded by Upton Sinclair after he was arrested for participating in a longshoremen's rally.

In the 80 years since, we've always remembered those roots. We've urged other ACLU offices to support workers rights. We've insisted that ACLU events were in union hotels. We've stood up for carwash workers, janitors and sweatshop workers. And we stand with you today.

We support the Employee Free Choice Act because history shows that strong unions mean fair wages. Strong unions mean safe working conditions. Strong unions mean secure families. Strong unions mean a healthy economy.

There is a strong connection between constitutional rights and economic rights. President Franklin Roosevelt reminded us that '''true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.' Ours is supposed to be a society of '''liberty and justice for all,' but there is no '''justice' when good schools, safe housing, health care, decent employment and access to legal counsel are simply not there for millions. There is no justice when poverty robs too many Americans of the economic power, the psychic security and the practical ability to enjoy their rights and participate fully in their society.

Every day we see the damage caused by a lopsided playing field, where those with wealth and power made the rules to benefit themselves and where working class and middle class people were left to suffer. We see the results of rising income inequality and concentration of wealth. We see health care, housing and education slipping farther out of reach of too many of us. We must change that. We need unions to protect the well being of those who don't get bailouts and bonuses, who don't get corporate jets and golden parachutes.

Here's a secret our opponents don't want you to know: Unions have been good for America. That's right. All of us, whether we are in a union or not, have benefitted from health and safety regulations. All of us have benefitted from child labor laws. All of us have benefitted from the five day work week. All of us have benefitted from the economic security created by hard working people in good paying jobs. Today we see these protections as common sense and fundamental to the economy. But they were all resisted by corporations, just as the Employee Free Choice Act is being resisted now. We won those battles and America was better off as labor unions helped create a middle class that contributed to our national prosperity. We will win this battle and America will be better off again! It is time for us all'''Senator Feinstein included'''to get on the right side of history.

Too often employers make threats, hire union-busting consultants, fire workers, intimidate and punish workers for organizing unions. When they step on the rights of workers they step on the rights of everyone who wants a better life. The Employee Free Choice Act will stop that. This legislation means a fair chance at a square deal, new hope for a good living. Those are basic principles that we should all be proud to stand up for and the ACLU of Southern California proudly stands with you. Thank you.

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