FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

A Closer Look at the Employee Free Choice Act

by DAVID MACARAY

By now, most people have heard of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), the bold legislative initiative introduced by the Democrats (Rep. George Miller, D-CA), intended to amend the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by making it easier and fairer for employees to join a labor union.

Although the measure passed the House by a vote of 241 to 185, in June of 2007, and was approved by a 51-48 vote in the Senate, it failed to get the 60 votes necessary for cloture (which would have made it filibuster-proof), causing it to lie dormant for the remainder of the 110th Congress.

However, it should be noted that President Bush had already promised to veto the legislation, so even with those 60 crucial Senate votes the bill would have emerged stillborn.  To have any chance whatever of becoming law, it was clear that the EFCA would require a Democrat in the White House.

During the primaries, both Obama and Clinton loudly sang the praises of the EFCA (as they raked in organized labor’s contributions) and promised, if elected, to fight for its passage.  But because there have been signs that President Obama is hedging on that promise, it remains to be seen how hard he and his Congress-savvy chief of staff Rahm Emanuel will push for it.  On one side, they have moderate Democrats terrified of provoking the Republicans; on the other, they have an aroused AFL-CIO applying pressure.

If enacted, EFCA would allow employees to circumvent the complex, time-consuming, and management-skewed NLRB certification process.  Instead of a full-blown election, workers would have the choice of “card check,” where all they have to do is sign cards indicating they wish to become union members.  If a majority of the workforce signs such cards they instantly belong to a union.

Naturally, most businesses hate the idea of the streamlining the process.  They object to anything that makes joining a union easier.  Indeed, if it were their call, many businesses would prefer seeing unions made illegal or “state-run,” as they are in the most repressive countries in the world.  Accordingly, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has spent millions lobbying against passage of the EFCA.

While card check is the most celebrated feature of the EFCA, there are two other provisions in this bill that are equally—if not more—important.  Card check is an enormous advantage to unions, but it’s not a “new” method.  It’s already used voluntarily by companies who feel they can either defeat the measure through anti-union propaganda, or believe there’s benefit in being seen as “labor friendly.”

But the two other features of this bill could be seen as labor milestones.

First, the EFCA will give the union the right to demand that the company begin contract negotiations within 10 days of certification.  Ask any union organizers how hard it is to get that first contract, and they’ll tell you that companies are notorious for dragging their feet—either by stalling interminably before sitting down with the union, or purposely prolonging the negotiations to the point where novice memberships get so antsy, they lose their nerve and ask for decertification.  It happens.

However, under the EFCA, if the parties are unable to reach an agreement within 90 days, either side, union or management, can request that the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) be brought in to mediate the bargain.  Mediators already assist in contract bargains, particularly when strikes have been called or appear to be imminent, so having one present isn’t innovative.

But here’s the astonishing part:  If the parties can’t reach a mediated settlement within 30 days, the FMCS has the authority to finalize the contract.  In effect, it would be binding arbitration.  The notion of an outside party—a government agency, no less—setting the terms of a labor agreement would put the fear of God in management, causing them to do everything in their power to reach an equitable agreement.  It’s a profound improvement to the process.

Second, the EFCA would require the NLRB to seek an immediate injunction when there is “reasonable cause” to believe an employer has fired, suspended or harassed an employee for engaging in a union organizing or first contract drive.  Moreover, an employer who is found guilty of illegally firing or suspending a union activist would be required to pay that employee three times his back pay—the amount of his lost wages, plus two times that sum in punitive damages—plus as much as $20,000 in civil fines.

So there it is.  The EFCA will not only make card check a way of life, it will prevent companies who hope to avoid having to agree to a fair contract from stalling or playing mind games at the bargaining table, and will stop (or seriously curtail) management from illegally thwarting union activism in the workplace.

It’s no wonder the Republican Party and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are going ape-shit over this.  Arguably, the EFCA would be the first big-time pro-labor legislation to come down the pike since the 1935 Wagner Act.  Now it’s up to Obama and the Democrats to step up to the plate and get it done.

DAVID MACARAY, a Los Angeles playwright (“Borneo Bob,” “Larva Boy”) and writer, was a former labor rep.  He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net
 

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is “Nightshift: 270 Factory Stories.” He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

More articles by:
May 31, 2016
Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz
Imperial Blues: On Whitewashing Dictatorship in the 21st Century
Vijay Prashad
Stoking the Fires: Trump and His Legions
Patrick Howlett-Martin
Libya: How to Bring Down a Nation
Uri Avnery
What Happened to Netanyahu?
Corey Payne
Reentry Through Resistance: Détente with Cuba was Accomplished Through Resistance and Solidarity, Not Imperial Benevolence
Bill Quigley
From Tehran to Atlanta: Social Justice Lawyer Azadeh Shahshahani’s Fight for Human Rights
Manuel E. Yepe
Trump, Sanders and the Exhaustion of a Political Model
Bruce Lerro
“Network” 40 Years Later: Capitalism in Retrospect and Prospect and Elite Politics Today
Robert Hunziker
Chile’s Robocops
Aidan O'Brien
What’ll It be Folks: Xenophobia or Genocide?
Binoy Kampmark
Emailgate: the Clinton Spin Doctors In Action
Colin Todhunter
The Unique Risks of GM Crops: Science Trumps PR, Fraud and Smear Campaigns
Dave Welsh
Jessica Williams, 29: Another Black Woman Gunned Down By Police
Gary Leupp
Rules for TV News Anchors, on Memorial Day and Every Day
May 30, 2016
Ron Jacobs
The State of the Left: Many Movements, Too Many Goals?
James Abourezk
The Intricacies of Language
Porfirio Quintano
Hillary, Honduras, and the Murder of My Friend Berta
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes on ISIS are Reducing Their Cities to Ruins
Uri Avnery
The Center Doesn’t Hold
Raouf Halaby
The Sailors of the USS Liberty: They, Too, Deserve to Be Honored
Rodrigue Tremblay
Barack Obama’s Legacy: What Happened?
Matt Peppe
Just the Facts: The Speech Obama Should Have Given at Hiroshima
Deborah James
Trade Pacts and Deregulation: Latest Leaks Reveal Core Problem with TISA
Michael Donnelly
Still Wavy After All These Years: Flower Geezer Turns 80
Ralph Nader
The Funny Business of Farm Credit
Paul Craig Roberts
Memorial Day and the Glorification of Past Wars
Colin Todhunter
From Albrecht to Monsanto: A System Not Run for the Public Good Can Never Serve the Public Good
Rivera Sun
White Rose Begins Leaflet Campaigns June 1942
Tom H. Hastings
Field Report from the Dick Cheney Hunting Instruction Manual
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail