Issue Report: Employee Free Choice Act

Should the US Congress pass the Employee Free Choice Act?

The Employee Free Choice Act is a piece of legislation that would change federal law in order to, according to the bill’s authors, strengthen the rights of workers to unionize. It attempts to do so by changing the procedure by which workers unionize. Currently, union campaigns must secure support from 30% of workers in a company through card-ballots, which subsequently sends the campaign into a secret ballot election. If a majority of workers then vote by secret ballot to unionize, a union may be certified by the National Labor Relations Board and established. The Employee Free Choice Act (H.R. 800, S. 1041) intends to change the law so that a union can be created by a majority vote from the card-ballot process alone, avoiding the second process of a secret ballot election. It also establishes stronger penalties for violation of employee rights when workers seek to form a union and during first-contract negotiations and provides for mediation and arbitration for first-contract disputes. The legislation was introduced in both the House and Senate during the 108th, 109th, and 110th Congress. It passed in the House on March 1, 2007 for the first time, but was filibustered by Senate Republicans in June 2007. With the election of Barack Obama, who supports the legislation, and increased Democratic majorities in the house and Senate, passage of the bill appears more likely.

Worker's rights: Does EFCA strengthen worker's rights?

EFCA strengthens workers' ability and right to unionize

Employer Free Choice Act. American Rights at Work

“The Employee Free Choice Act would allow workers to form a union through “majority sign-up.” If workers know they want a union, we should have laws that let them have it. The Employee Free Choice Act would require an employer to recognize its employees’ union when a majority has signed union authorization cards. Under current law, management can refuse to recognize a union even when 100 percent of employees have signed authorization cards. After a majority of workers have signed cards, an employer can still call for a separate election. Under the current system, then, the employer gets to decide whether a separate election is necessary. The Employee Free Choice Act would give this choice to the workers. Read more about majority sign-up.”

EFCA preserves employee choice with majority sign-up voting

Opponents of the Employee Choice Act argue that somehow the Employee Free Choice Act eliminates employee rights to free choice through secret ballots. But, this is is false. The EFCA replaces secret ballots with card-ballot systems, and institute a number of important measures to better enable employees to freely vote to unionize.

Kyle Trygstad. "The Employee Free Choice Act". Real Clear Politics. 26 Aug. 2008

“The Employee Free Choice Act takes away veto power from CEOs and gives employees the free choice about whether to join a union. When a majority of people in a workplace say they want a union, they should get a union. That’s democracy. That’s what the Employee Free Choice Act does. When people try to form a union now, they’re met with virtually unregulated resistance from anti-union companies who don’t want to treat their workers with respect. The Employee Free Choice Act restores the balance in the workplace, where almost every scale is tipped against people who just want to have a voice at work.”

Employee Free Choice Act eliminates workers' right to secret ballots

Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), an opponent of the bill, stated “It is beyond me how one can possibly claim that a system whereby everyone – your employer, your union organizer, and your co-workers – knows exactly how you vote on the issue of unionization gives an employee ‘free choice…It seems pretty clear to me that the only way to ensure that a worker is ‘free to choose’ is to ensure that there’s a private ballot, so that no one knows how you voted. I cannot fathom how we were about to sit there today and debate a proposal to take away a worker’s democratic right to vote in a secret-ballot election and call it ‘Employee Free Choice.'” [1]

EFCA card checking campaigns can be unreliable and illegitimate

James Sherk and Paul Kersey. "How the Employee Free Choice Act Takes Away Workers' Rights". Heritage Foundation. 23 Apr. 2007

“Organizing Without Majority Support. Card-check campaigns expose workers to union threats and harassment and pressure them to commit after hearing a one-sided union sales pitch. Cards collected under those circumstances often do not reflect employees’ free choice. Consequently card-check allows union activists to organize plants where a majority of workers oppose the union.

EFCA would foster the creation of unions workers may not want

"The Employee Free Choice Act - A senate primer". The Union Free Employer. 21 Mar. 2007

“In a nutshell, the E.F.C.A. will […] require an employer to recognize a union as the exclusive representative of all the employees as soon as the union presents cards signed by a majority — whether or not the employees understood what they were signing”

For example, Metaldyne Corporation agreed to allow the UAW to organize its workers with a card-check campaign in exchange for concessions at the bargaining table. The UAW soon collected union cards from a majority of workers, and Metaldyne agreed to recognize the UAW as its employees’ rep­resentative. Soon afterwards, a majority of the com­pany’s workers submitted a signed petition stating that they did not want a union and requesting that the NLRB decertify their union.[16] The signed union cards did not reflect the employees’ true preferences.”

Unions: Should EFCA increase union size?

Too many workers want to unionize but can't currently

"The Employee Free Choice Act". Campaign for America's Future.

“More than half of all U.S. workers—nearly 60 million—say they would join a union right now if they could [Peter D. Hart poll]. Their best opportunity to get ahead is by uniting with co-workers to bargain with employers for better wages and benefits. Working people want that opportunity.”

Employee Free Choice Act responds to worsening conditions for workers

AFL CIO on the Employee Free Choice Act

“It’s Time to Restore Workers’ Freedom to Form Unions. America’s working people are struggling to make ends meet these days and our middle class is disappearing. The best opportunity working people have to get ahead economically is by uniting to bargain with their employers for better wages and benefits. Recent research has shown that some 60 million U.S. workers would join a union if they could…But the current system for forming unions and bargaining is broken.”

Michael Whitney. "At Convention, Campaign Launches for Employee Free Choice Act". Open Left. 26 Aug. 2008

“Why is the Employee Free Choice Act so important? People are struggling in this country. Today’s workplaces are tilted in favor of lavishly-paid CEOs, who get golden parachutes while middle-class families struggle to get by. The Employee Free Choice Act can restore the balance, giving more workers a chance to form unions and get better health care, job security, and benefits – and an opportunity to pursue their dreams. When more workers are in unions, our economy can be strong again.”

EFCA reforms a broken, undemocratic, and unfair US union system

AFL CIO on the Employee Free Choice Act

“the current system for forming unions and bargaining is broken. Every day, corporations deny workers the freedom to decide for themselves whether to form unions to bargain for a better life. They routinely intimidate, harass, coerce and even fire workers who try to form unions and bargain for economic well-being.”

EFCA is biased toward increasing unions and their power

Stephen Cabot. "Employee Free Choice Act Puts A Target On The Back Of Manufacturers". Industry Weekly. 16 Oct. 2008

“While the AFL-CIO and other unions support Kennedy’s proposal to do away with secret ballot elections, they do favor secret ballot elections when it comes to decertifying a union, which is a procedure that permits workers to decide if they want to continue being represented by a union. In the case of decertifications, the unions feel that management might intimidate union members to throw out the union and so there should be secret elections. This lack of logical consistency points to the real union agenda, which is to increase membership, while discouraging decertifications.

With secret ballots, unions win just over 50% of their elections. With card authorizations, however, unions win more than 80% of the time. And that could spell big trouble for Manufacturers. In 2005, a large number of workers who joined unions did so as a result of Card checks. That includes 4,600 workers at Wynn Las Vegas, 5,000 janitors in Houston, and 16,500 workers at Cingular. Two decades ago, the percentage of workers who joined unions following card checks was less than 10%.”

Unions are dwindling because few workers care to join

James Sherk and Paul Kersey. "How the Employee Free Choice Act Takes Away Workers' Rights". Heritage Foundation. 23 Apr. 2007

“Few Workers Want to Organize. Union activ­ists contend that the low level of unionization in the United States proves that elections do not reflect workers’ free choice. They argue that most Ameri­can workers actually want to join a union. They back this up with polling numbers showing that 53 percent of non-union workers, or 57 million work­ers, would like to belong to a union. However those numbers are highly suspect. The AFL-CIO commissioned the poll. Peter Hart, a Dem­ocratic pollster, conducted it. The poll itself remains unpublished, and the AFL-CIO has not revealed the questions or polling methodologies used. Publicly publishedpolls conducted by nonparti­san pollsters show the opposite: Relatively few non-union workers want general representation. Zogby polling shows that, by a margin of more than 3 to 1, non-union workers do not want to belong to a labor union.[49] Because a union must win the support of a majority of a company’s workers to win recognition, the fact that relatively few workers belong to a union is not surprising.”

Intimidation: Would the EFCA reduce intimidation?

Employee Free Choice Act protects unionizing workers from intimidation

Supporters of the Employee Free Choice Act argued that during the weeks (or months) it took to set up the election, management often conducted efforts to dissuade workers from organizing. Many workers reported being threatened with replacement if they ever (as part of a union) chose to strike. Others claimed that employers “predicted” future workplace closures, which under current law was legal so long as they did not “threaten” it. In some cases, employers were even reported to have fired worker activists in an attempt to deter future unionization efforts, knowing it would take years for reinstatement orders to take effect.[2]

Secret voting systems allow for employer abuses.

In the words of one labor activist, government-supervised secret-ballot orga­nizing elections “look more like the discredited practices of rogue regimes abroad than like any­thing we would call American.”[3]

EFCA gives employees equal access to injunctive relief

"The Employee Free Choice Act Meaningful. Remedies Against Employer Coercion". AFL-CIO

“The Employee Free Choice Act gives employees equal access to injunctive relief. Currently, only employers are entitled to mandatory injunctive relief when their rights are violated. Employees and their unions have no similar remedy. Under current law, the NLRB is required to seek a federal court order to protect employers from certain prohibited conduct by unions. These cases receive top priority, and injunction petitions are filed in federal court within 72 hours of an employer filing a charge against a union. The Employee Free Choice Act mandates similar expedited injunctive relief when workers are fired or other significant violations of employees’ rights occur during organizing efforts or during the period when employees are seeking to negotiate a first contract. The NLRB must file for an injunction promptly after the filing of a meritorious charge, and courts may grant immediate interim relief, including immediate reinstatement of fired employees.”

Employee Free Choice Act favors one-sided union pitches

James Sherk and Paul Kersey. "How the Employee Free Choice Act Takes Away Workers' Rights". Heritage Foundation. 23 Apr. 2007

“Even when union organizers do not threaten workers, card checks often do not reveal workers’ free and considered choice about joining a union because workers do not hear both sides’ pitches and lack time for reflection. Instead, card checks force workers to choose in a high-pressure sales situation.

In a card-check campaign, groups of organizers meet with individual workers at their homes or else­where and press them to sign a union authorization card. Organizers do not simply present the argu­ments for and against joining the union and then ask for a worker’s support. Instead, they employ psychological manipulation to induce workers to sign after hearing their pitch.”

EFCA opens door to intimidation of union holdouts

James Sherk and Paul Kersey. "How the Employee Free Choice Act Takes Away Workers' Rights". Heritage Foundation. 23 Apr. 2007

“Harassing Holdouts. With card checks, union organizers know who has and has not signed up to join the union, allowing them to repeatedly approach and pressure reluctant workers who declined to sign after the first sales pitch. With this technique, a worker’s decision to join the union is binding, while a decision to opt out only means ‘not this time.'”

Employee Free Choice Act would not solve alleged employer abuses

James Sherk and Paul Kersey. "How the Employee Free Choice Act Takes Away Workers' Rights". Heritage Foundation. 23 Apr. 2007

“Unions Allege Abuses and Imbalances. It is difficult to argue for stripping workers of their right to a private vote. To justify putting an end to orga­nizing elections, unions argue that the elections take place “in an inherently and intensely coercive envi­ronment” and are stacked against workers who want to join a union[…] If such abuses were occurring, depriving work­ers of a private vote would do almost nothing to stop them.”

Employers rarely violate the law during union organizing campaigns

James Sherk and Paul Kersey. "How the Employee Free Choice Act Takes Away Workers' Rights". Heritage Foundation. 23 Apr. 2007

“the unions’ allegations are either factually false or highly misleading. The facts show that employers rarely violate the law in orga­nizing drives and that, if anything, NLRB election procedures favor unions: Unions win 61 percent of all organizing elections.”

Employers have been pressured to "voluntarily" adopt card-checking

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