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Van Hollen cosponsors EFCA

Posted by Thomas Nephew on March 13th, 2009

One million strong for the Employee Free Choice ActFrom the AFL-CIO:

This week, 223 representatives signed on as co-sponsors of the Employee Free Choice Act. They are leading the way in the fight to restore workers’ freedom to form unions and bargain for a better life. It is imperative that we thank these representatives for siding with working families instead of Big Business lobbyists.

Thank you, Representative Van Hollen. As one of the cosponsors listed in the preamble of the act itself, and as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, I hope he’ll continue to lead the charge for this important legislation in the days and weeks ahead.

As is well known, the bill seeks to “amend the National Labor Relations Act to establish an efficient system to enable employees to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to provide for mandatory injunctions for unfair labor practices during organizing efforts, and for other purposes.”

The means for that efficient system is the so-called “card check” method of organizing a union, in which the National Labor Relations Board is directed to immediately certify a union as the representative for workers when “a majority of the employees in a unit appropriate for bargaining has signed valid authorizations designating the individual or labor organization specified in the petition as their bargaining representative” when the workers are not already represented.

As is also well known, the battle lines are drawn for this bill, and misinformation, hyperbole, threats, and lies about its impact abound:

  • Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott, October 28, when asked about EFCA: “We like driving the car and we’re not going to give the steering wheel to anybody but us.”*
  • Home Depot CEO Bernie Marcus: “This is the greatest threat to employee rights and economic growth in 50 years!”
  • United States Chamber of Commerce vice president for labor policy Randel Johnsen: “This will be Armageddon.”
  • A bogus economic study funded by EFCA opponents  — “An Empirical Assessment of the Employee Free Choice Act: The Economic Implications” — has been debunked by Chris Kromm (Institute for Southern Studies).  Canadian researcher Anne Layne-Farrar claims to show that union growth of  5 to 10 percent would result in an increase in the unemployment rate of around 1.5 to 3 percent.  But the results are cherry-picked from old data about a handful of Canadian provinces undergoing economic hard times — and variable card check policies.  Kromm: “Even as a piece of business research-for-hire, Layne-Farrar’s study is shockingly weak — based on a thin set of old and irrelevant data that doesn’t even bear out her own conclusions.”

The key canard about EFCA is that the bill somehow undermines democracy by supposedly ending secret ballot elections.

However, the bill doesn’t remove the secret ballot method, it simply adds the card check method; as the American Rights at Work “freechoiceact.org” web site puts it:

The legislation will not take away the secret ballot, but rather will allow workers, not their bosses, to choose which union organizing method to use.

But don’t believe them, don’t believe me — just read the proposed legislation, it’s not that long.

Moreover, there’s little that’s “democratic” about the current election process that’s currently the only way to get a union — management can lobby against unionization on site while organizers are forbidden to do so, and is effectively able to fire organizers with impunity because the grievance process when that happens is much longer than the election process, and because the NLRB frequently lets them get away with it.

I intend to follow this issue as closely as I can in the weeks and months ahead.  In my view, unions are one of the keys to re-leveling the economic playing field and restoring a healthy, fair, sustainable economy.

Accordingly, I’ll be setting up a one-stop resource page about the issue gathering factual information, bill tracking information, and ways to help out here: http://newsrackblog.com/action/efca.  You can also track EFCA-related news at the AFL-CIO, American Rights at Work, and elsewhere.

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