Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Employee Free Choice Act & us

A lot of our members are expressing ignorance of or unfamiliarity with the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), also informally referred to as the card check legislation. If passed by Congress, the EFCA would take away the right of employers to demand secret-ballot elections by workers before unions could be recognized. Under the EFCA, unions could gain representation if a majority of workers sign cards authorizing it.

Passage of this bill could very well spur a renaissance in the US labor movement. The days of workers being discouraged from organizing due to employer intimidation would be over. Pro-US business groups hate the EFCA. In response to pro-EFCA claims that it would disempower employers, these groups counter-claim that it would deprive workers of secret ballot voting and subject employees to union bullying. This position is interesting in that pro-business interests are opposed to unions bullying their employees, but by golly will spend gobs of lobbying money to protect their right to bully their employees themselves.

Given America's difficult and controversial history around union organizing, and given the very different worker climate that existed during the times that businesses successfully lobbied for legislation to force workers to use secret ballot voting instead of openly signing cards, it really makes sense for all of us to do some homework about the EFCA, where and how it originated, and how today's worker climate in America is vastly different from the one that resulted in the federal targeting of unions decades ago.

Barack Obama is a strong supporter of the EFCA, and campaigned strongly on getting it passed. He is so preoccupied with the economy right now, though, that it's unclear as to when he will pick this issue back up and run with it. It's still not out of the question for passage of the EFCA to become one of his accomplishments during his first 100 days in office, but we can't count on that happening within this tight time frame.

You may recall that Obama had originally planned to delay health-care reform for a year, while he takes care of other issues such as US workers' rights. However, he has since changed this tack, since it's become increasingly evident that health-care reform must precede a lot of the other reform measures on his to-do list, including entitlement reform and passage of the EFCA, in order to turn around our economy, since current health-care costs are such a huge component of our federal deficit.

What we do know is that America's unions are in ongoing negotiations to put aside recent animosities and join forces to get this bill passed. We also know that the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has been rapidly hiring a significant ground effort to work in labor union battleground states as organizers for this bill's passage.

If you run across anything that you feel would help the rest of us get up-to-speed on this bill, before we're asked by the Obama administration to help him get it passed, please pass it along to us so we can share it with the rest of our member base.

Read what the AFL-CIO writes about the EFCA.

Read what Change to Win, an umbrella organization of seven unions, writes about the EFCA.

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