The misnamed "Employee Free Choice" Act (EFCA), often referred to as "Card Check," has been a long standing priority of organized labor to increase union membership throughout the country. Union numbers have dropped nationally from 20.1 percent of employed workers in 1983 to 12.1 percent in 2007. EFCA is viewed by Labor as its best chance to regain lost ground.
Three significant amendments will be made to the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA") if EFCA becomes law. These changes could hurt your organization and employees.
Eliminates the Secret Ballot: Under EFCA, if a majority of employees sign an authorization card, an employer can be forced to recognize the union without a secret ballot election supervised by the National Labor Relations Board ("NLRB") as is the current practice. According to a McLaughlin and Associates poll in 2007, 87 percent of Americans support a federally-supervised, secret ballot election for union organization purposes. The proposed legislation threatens the privacy rights of every worker and exposes employees to the risk of intimidation.
Mandatory Binding Arbitration: Employers and unions will have 90 days to reach a collective bargaining agreement if EFCA is passed. If a contract is not negotiated during this time, a 30-day mediation period will follow. If the parties still fail to reach an agreement, a federal arbitration panel will be authorized to decide the dispute, thereby creating a contract that will be in effect for two years.
Penalties for Employers: EFCA severely increases the penalties employers incur for unfair labor practices during organizing efforts. However, the legislation does not increase consequences for union violations. Under the current law, a worker is entitled to full back pay if employer discrimination occurs during an organizing drive. Under EFCA, the worker would receive triple back pay, and the employer may face a civil penalty of up to $20,000 per violation.
What can you do? Education is crucial. Employees should know the pros and cons of union membership, and company leaders should learn the early signs of union organization. Also, get involved and let legislators know that EFCA will take away privacy rights of employees and hurt employers.
Rochester Business Alliance is working with the Business Council of New York and the US Chamber of Commerce to oppose this legislation. The House of Representatives passed EFCA this past legislative session and only a filibuster in the Senate prevented its final passage. With the recent change in elected officials, it is even more important that employers make their voices heard.