The Employee Free Choice Act and right-to-work states

As we have stated in previous posts, the EFCA would dramatically overhaul the National Labor Relations Act, specifically by allowing for easier routes to unionization through card-check procedures and by foregoing secret ballot elections.

Should the EFCA be passed, this poses an interesting question: what effect will this have on right-to-work states?

Right to work laws, which are currently in effect in 22 states, prohibit unions from making membership in the union or payment of union dues a condition of employment, either before or after hire.

Generally speaking, right-to-work states are composed mainly of southern states. These states have constantly sought more and more manufacturing jobs from northeastern states, selling companies on their lower unionization rates and lower cost of living. This strategy has paid off as more and more of these jobs have migrated south in recent decades, paving the way for increased economic strength of southern states.

As some of our readers point out, the EFCA, as a federal law, would not change right-to-work laws in those states; however it begs the question, should the EFCA lead to increased unionization rates as expected, will this lead to increased unionization rates in right-to-work states?

This is a situation worth watching, because the EFCA could have a dramatic ripple effect throughout much of the country.

Music City makes a push for the EFCA

The Employee Free Choice Act might currently be stalled in Congress, but that has not stopped some legislators down in Rocky Top to send a request to their Senators to vote for the EFCA. Nashville Metro Council is planning on sending a request to Tennessee Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker to vote for the Employee Fee Choice Act.

Ironically, Tennessee as a right-to-work state has benefited tremendously from the low unionization rate in the state. The passage of the EFCA, which would make it far easier for workers to form unions would likely have a detrimental effect on the state's economic growth.

Obama plays catch-up in the fight for union votes

With the Presidential Primaries just around the corner, Democrat candidates are jockeying for support amongst national labor unions. On the heels of John Edwards’ impressive support from unions, Barack Obama has begun openly courting support from other unions in Iowa.

In a recent speech in Iowa, Obama highlighted his plans for the union movement in America, stating:

We're ready to take the offense for organized labor. It's time we had a President who didn't choke saying the word "union." We need to strengthen our unions by letting them do what they do best - organize our workers. If a majority of workers want a union, they should get a union. It's that simple. We need to stand up to the business lobby that's been getting their friends in Congress and in the White House to block card check. That's why I was one of the leaders fighting to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. That's why I'm fighting for it in the Senate. And that's why we'll make it the law of the land when I'm President.

In what is likely to be a very close race for the Democratic Party nomination, successful candidates will need en masse support from unions to turn out the vote on primary day. With unions declaring the EFCA to be their number one priority in the 2008 elections, Democrat candidates are forced into the position of supporting this legislation in order to get elected, making the threat of its passage all the more real.

Edwards endorses EFCA; SEIU endorses Edwards

Although the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) announced that it would forego endorsing a presidential candidate on a national level, Service Employee International Union chapters in twelve states have endorsed the candidacy of John Edwards.

John Edwards has already received endorsements from SEIU chapters in the two crucial primaries’ states of Iowa and New Hampshire. Edwards has been one of the primary supporters of the Employee Free Choice Act, which unions have declared as be their primary issue in the 2008 election.  

NLRB declares political neutrality on the EFCA

As the 2008 presidential campaign heats up, so does the campaign to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. However, the National Labor Relations Board is staying far away from this hot topic. 

The NLRB's General Counsel, Ronald Meisburg, said that his role precludes him from taking sides on labor issues.  “We don’t grind an ax,” Meisburg said last week. “We don’t care who wins. It’s important we leave alone the partisan political battles on Capitol Hill.”

The EFCA is currently stalled in the Senate after being passed in the House of Representatives, but is expected to loom large during the 2008 election campaign.

NLRB rebukes Employee Free Choice Act

The NLRB's decision in Dana Corporation is, among other things, a direct rebuke to the pending legislation, the Employee Free Choice Act, which would allow the NLRB to certify a union as the employees’ exclusive bargaining representative without holding an election, if the Board finds that a majority of an employer’s employees have signed union authorization cards. 

Please view the Fox Rothschild Alert regarding Dana Corporation. 

Anthropologists for Unions??

Paul Durrenberger, professor of anthropology at Penn State, was a primary contributor to the first American Anthropological Association Policy Brief on the right of employees to organize unions.

Durrenberger, a cultural anthropologist who has lived and worked in communities from Thailand to Iceland, has focused his recent work on the United States and the role of unions in the American workforce. His policy focuses on the Employee Free Choice Act.

The brief is part of a series of informational resources intended for the public policy community that approaches problems from an anthropological perspective.

Schwarzenegger "terminates" the EFCA in California

Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed California legislation very similar to the Employee Free Choice Act.  The California legislation would have allowed workers to form unions by signing union authorization cards rather than going through a union campaign resulting in an election.  The law would have also increased penalties for labor law violations.

Schwarzenegger, declared in his veto message that, “This 'card check' process fundamentally alters an employee's right to a secret ballot election.”

EFCA tops AFL-CIO's priority list in 2008 election

The AFL-CIO announced plans to spend $53.4 million on grassroots outreach in the 2008 election cycle to back political candidates that support "workers' issues," such as healthcare and the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).

With the AFL-CIO emphasizing the passage of the EFCA, this is sure to be a big domestic issue in the upcoming elections, with a greater focus on unions and the workplace than there has been in recent election cycles. 

EFCA to be Hot Button Issue in Presidential Primaries

With the Presidential Primaries just around the corner, candidates have taken sides on the EFCA. The three leading Democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards have all come out in favor of passing the EFCA if elected.

In contrast, all Republican candidates are on record as opposing passage of the EFCA.  The five Republican candidates who are members of Congress all voted against the Employee Free Choice Act this year, and three other candidates—Vanderbilt Law alum and former Senator Fred Thompson, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani—all have expressed their opposition to the EFCA. 

Massachusetts Enacts Modified EFCA

The State of Massachusetts enacted a modified version of the Employee Free Choice Act. 

On September 27, 2007, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, signed into law a bill requiring recognition of public sector unions when a majority of bargaining unit members sign union authorization cards.  Under this new law, unions have 12 months to gather signatures and can then request certification from the State Labor Relations Commission or from a neutral third party.