a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

Support the Employee Free Choice Act

Posted by Thomas Nephew on June 20th, 2007

AFL-CIOThe Senate is taking up S 1041 this week, the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). The act would:
  • Establish stronger penalties for violation of employee rights when workers seek to form a union and during first-contract negotiations.
  • Provide mediation and arbitration for first-contract disputes.
  • Allow employees to form unions by signing cards authorizing union representation.

The last provision — called “card check” or “majority signup” by labor, and “streamlining union certification” in the bill — is designed to make it easier for workers to unionize. It’s important to note that EFCA doesn’t prohibit the traditional route to unionization: secret ballot elections. Instead, it simply provides an alternative.

comparison of NLRB and regular electionsThe “majority signup” unionizing process recognizes that traditional secret ballot elections in the workplace can bear little resemblance to the elections we (hope we) use to elect political leaders. The graphic to the right, based on a report for American Rights At Work, shows some of the differences. Imagine if your mayor could credibly threaten you with shutting down the city if his opponent were elected.

While such tactics are supposed to be illegal, it can be years before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) gets around to considering complaints — let alone punishing management. Thus, according to the AFL-CIO, 25% of companies facing union campaigns illegally fire pro-union workers.

Management has the advantage anyway: they can campaign round-the-clock against unions with posters and meetings, while workers are restricted to breaks and after hours organizing; 92% of companies facing union campaigns have mandatory, closed door anti union meetings; union organizers, of course, can’t compel anyone to listen to them.

Some fret that the “card check” method will make it too easy for pro-union workers to coerce other workers into signing pro-union petitions as well. It’s hard to see how, though; labor law (including the EFCA) prohibits that. At any rate, a study by Adrienne Wheaton and Jill Kriesky found that workers actually feel less coerced by co-workers in “majority signup” situations than in secret ballot ones. That would make sense: “majority signup” would create less of an embattled atmosphere than a high stakes secret ballot election. (Meanwhile, of course, the respondents felt much less coerced by management as well.)

Something is keeping reported tens of millions of Americans from joining unions even though they’d like to; it’s probably because it’s usually just too much of an uphill battle. The Employee Free Choice Act will level that playing field — and bring higher wages and better benefits to workers, for a change.

Contact your Senators and urge them to support this bill and resist Republican efforts to filibuster it. The Employee Free Choice Act deserves an “up or down vote” — and then it deserves to win.

FURTHER READING: For the Long Run: The Employee Free Choice Act, Jefferson Cowie, Cornell University, April 2006, and other documents at the AFL CIO’s “Who Supports the Employee Free Choice Act?” Wal-Mart is the poster child of unionbusting, of course; one of the most recent studies of their methods is by Human Rights Watch: Discounting Rights: Wal-Mart’s Violation of US Workers’ Right to Freedom of Association (summarized here).

6 Responses to “Support the Employee Free Choice Act”

  1. » Blog Archive » Pro-EFCA mischief Says:

    […] message for the boilerplate text here — pass it on.  For more information about EFCA, click here (my blog post), here (AFL-CIO) or here (Americans Rights at […]

  2. Chris S. Says:

    I think the EFCA would put too much power in the hands of unions and the government and take power away from the people that own businesses. Why would anyone that has worked and built up his or her business want the EFCA? It’s not just the card check. It’s also the fact that it would allow the government to decide work assignments, changes in business operations, mergers, ect. Not the person that owns the business, but some government bureaucrat. I’m not a business owner. I make $8 an hour doing ISP tech support. But I hate the idea of even more power for the government. That is why I will not support this law. And if I did own a business and the employees wanted to unionize, I would sell the business off that day and fire everyone. I would not have some union prick or worthless bureaucrat deciding what goes on in my business.


  3. Thomas Nephew Says:

    EFCA would put too much power in the hands of unions and the government
    Unions don’t have that much power these days, and government wouldn’t figure in it the way you’re saying at all — the NLRB would just enforce the rules for how to go about collective bargaining, it wouldn’t determine what got into the contract.

    And if I did own a business and the employees wanted to unionize, I would sell the business off that day and fire everyone.
    You’d be breaking the law then. The right to collective bargaining isn’t some kind of ‘cheat’ employees are putting over on employers, it gives them a fair chance to get a good deal for themselves. No one wants a failing business, not ‘even’ union members.

  4. » Blog Archive » Make the GOP really filibuster the next one Says:

    […] have blocked in this way — just about everything Democrats have wanted, including the Employee Free Choice Act a couple of weeks ago. Hilzoy […]

  5. » Blog Archive » Why does Richard Berman want to kick my dog? Says:

    […] the Employee Free Choice Act did envision a “public petition process“, the bill did not rule out secret ballot votes […]

  6. » Blog Archive » Department of followups Says:

    […] Support the Employee Free Choice Act, 06/20/07 — As is well known, the Employee Free Choice Act was defeated when Senate failed by 9 votes (51-48) to reach the 60 needed to end debate on the measure. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t thank the representatives and senators who supported it. Locally, it was a clean sweep: Representative Chris Van Hollen and Senators Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin all voted for the bill. At “Free State Politics,” Isaac Smith provides a video clip of Senator Cardin’s floor speech, in which Cardin rebutted the canard that the Act prohibited secret ballot elections. From the official transcript of Cardin’s remarks: […]

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