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A Scary Monster Lurks:  Preparing for the Employee Free Choice Act

It is the summer of 2008 and, again, we find ourselves in the throes of another presidential campaign. Unquestionably, the war in Iraq, terrorism, the economy, energy, gas prices and, of course, global warming are in the forefront of the debate. But, a scary monster lurks just over the hill, Capitol Hill that is. The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), federal legislation that has been introduced, but failed to pass, in three prior congressional sessions will certainly be introduced again. Given the current political climate, the bill clearly has its best chance of becoming law early in 2009.

A Scary Monster Lurks:  Preparing for the Employee Free Choice Act

By Bill Leopardi
President, Cruz & Associates


It is the summer of 2008 and, again, we find ourselves in the throes of another presidential campaign. Unquestionably, the war in Iraq, terrorism, the economy, energy, gas prices and, of course, global warming are in the forefront of the debate. But, a scary monster lurks just over the hill, Capitol Hill that is. The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), federal legislation that has been introduced, but failed to pass, in three prior congressional sessions will certainly be introduced again. Given the current political climate, the bill clearly has its best chance of becoming law early in 2009.

Frustrated by their inability to grow their ranks through either traditional organizing or even well-financed corporate campaigns, organized labor and its political allies have devised new rules and procedures that would radically change the face of union organizing. The EFCA would amend the National Labor Relations Act by eliminating the NLRB secret ballot election and replacing it with a mandatory card check procedure.

But it does not stop there. The EFCA would also mandate binding arbitration for first contract negotiations, increase back pay to three times lost wages for an “unlawful” discharge of a union supporter, provide civil fines of up to $20,000 per violation, and require the NLRB to seek immediate injunctive relief (i.e. issue restraining orders) whenever there is reasonable cause to believe that an employer has interfered with employees’ rights to organize.

Here are a few questions and answers that will help you understand and follow this legislation.

What will this really mean to the employer community if it becomes law?

In practice, union organizers could tell your employees just about anything to get them to sign a union authorization card, and you may not even know it is happening. From our experience, this already occurs all too often. If a majority does sign, there is no discussion, no debate, no campaign and no secret ballot election. You would proceed directly to negotiations within 10 days after receiving a written demand from the union where you would reach an agreement with your new union “business partner.” If you did not reach an agreement within 120 days, an arbitration panel would write your contract for you….. and, it would be binding on you for at least 2 years.

What is the status of the EFCA?

The 2007 version of the bill had 233 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives (H.R. 800) and 46 co-sponsors in the Senate (S. 1041), including Barack Obama.  In 2007, the bill cleared the House of Representatives but, facing a potential filibuster and threatened presidential veto, it failed cloture and was never put up for a vote in the Senate. It is, today, organized labor’s highest priority for the first one hundred days of the next administration.


Who is leading the opposition to this bill?

Given the seriousness of this legislation, organized opposition to the bill is growing with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce having taken the lead. When the EFCA was under consideration in 2004, Charles Cohen, a Clinton appointee who served on the five-member National Labor Relations Board from 1994 to 1996, testified on behalf of the U.S. Chamber against the bill. To view his testimony, go to:

http://www.uschamber.com/issues/testimony/2004/040716employeefreechoiceact.htm

What does Cruz & Associates recommend if it appears that the EFCA is to become law?

We believe that every organization should put a three pronged strategy in place.
1. Create and implement a comprehensive, forward thinking, positive employee relations program.
2. Establish mechanisms for continually assessing the employee relations climate at each of your sites so that you can respond immediately to indications of employee dissatisfaction.
3. Develop a pro-active communications program to educate your employees about the fact that they have lost their right to a democratic secret ballot election and the importance of finding out the real facts before signing a union authorization card.

Some final thoughts?

Don’t wait for the EFCA to become a reality. The first two recommendations above should already be at the core of your company’s strategic employee relations plan. There are so many beneficial outcomes totally independent from union organizing. Make the time…..now.

 

Posted by Admin on 09/30 at 04:07 PM
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