Obama recognizes the need for compromise

President Obama said in a town hall meeting in Rio Rancho, NM that he is supportive of EFCA, but acknowledges that the Senate does not have the votes to pass it.  Obama noted that Congress will need to find a way to gain the support for passage, while at the same time perserving EFCA's core (i.e.; elimination of the secret ballot requirement under the National Labor Relations Act). This is going to be difficult to accomplish once hearings on the proposed bills get under way in Congress.

I say this because the hearings will undoubtedly include testimony from employees about the  immense pressure now placed on them by unions and union supporters to sign authorization cards and that this pressure is only likely to increase if the unions and union supporters are guaranteed to be certified once a majority of the employees sign the authorization cards.  See, now, only 30% of employees need to sign to begin the process that culminates in a secret ballot election; and a union is only certified if a majority of employees vote for union represenation. Meanwhile, the process I of takes about a month to six weeks to complete, during which time employees are free educate themselves on the pros and cons of being represented by a union.

Yes, unions and union supporters will say that this process is employer dominated and there is no way for employees to truly educate themselves when employers are holding meetings during the workday drilling into employees' heads that unionization is bad.  This arguement gives no credit to employees and their want to be educated.  The Internet and public libraries provide great access to materials for employees to become edcucated about whether or not they wish to have a third party speak for them.  Union and union supporters may counter that employees can educate themselves before signing.  While this may be true, the pressure they will face to sign and sing on the spot will be immense.

Thus, perserving the core of EFCA may not be so easy if union coercion and pressure is not adequately addressed.

Dems Put EFCA on the Backburner

 

With the Democrat-dominated Congress already getting to work on a number of employee-friendly pieces of legislation such as the Lilly Ledbetter Act, Congressional leaders have indicated that passage of the EFCA is not their first priority. 

According to Rep. George Miller, chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Labor Committee, the EFCA will be dealt with—in due course. 

However, according to Mr. Miller, “[T]here are things that may be more urgent because of circumstances beyond our control. That doesn't diminish the urgency I feel or the supporters of the Employee Free Choice Act feel ... I am quite comfortable that this is going to receive timely treatment…”

It remains to be seen how patient organized labor will be with the new Congress, considering how much support they provided in the last election cycle, all conditioned on the passage of the EFCA. 

EFCA Alert

Fox Rothschild Labor and Employment Department has issued an Alert on the EFCA.  If our readers are unfamiliar with the EFCA, this article is a good starting point and summary of the proposed law.

Why you don't have to hate unions to oppose the EFCA

If you are reading this blog posting, you are probably well-aware of the fact that it is on the web page of a law firm that represents management in employment matters. Here is a piece of information you do not have: This particular writer used to be a member of a union. That’s right. I was a member of a labor union and I was glad for it. After a few years anyway.

My initial reaction to starting my job and being told that all of the teachers in the NYC public school system are members of the union was, “Really? I don’t get to choose?” As I soon learned, I did not get to choose. The teachers who had come and gone before me had made the choice for me. Over the years, I came to appreciate the union. That did not, however, negate the fact that I had not chosen to become a member.

Now, with the passage of the EFCA looming in the horizon, I’ve had to think about what it means to choose union membership. If the EFCA is passed, workplaces may become unionized just by workers signing cards. That’s it. No private ballot, just your signature on a card.

Many people have questioned the freedom in that. Gone is the safety of knowing that no one will ever know where you put that “X” on the ballot. That safety seems to be important, though. It even seems to be important to Congressmen John D. Dingell (D-MI) and Henry Waxman (D-CA) who recently supported a private election in choosing the Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. This even though they support the passage of the EFCA. (See a letter from the Alliance for Worker Freedom to Representatives Dingell and Waxman here. See how your representative voted here.) Clearly there must be some benefit to having a secret ballot election. But the EFCA supporters have lost sight of that. This new card-check process is going to come at a cost. I wonder whether they can appreciate what that cost might be. I know Congressmen Dingell and Waxman must have an idea.
 

 

 

A Response to Our Readers

 

In a comment to our last post, one reader wrote:

My husband works for UPS Freight, formerly Overnite Transportation, in Richmond, VA. He has seen first hand the results of a union vote based on the card check. The union did not talk to any road drivers who were formerly Overnite and concentrated on dock workers for their 50% card checkers. Once the vote date was set, only those who had signed under card check could even attend the Union meeting. As a result, 32 people voted in the union - clearly not a majority of the 141 affected by the vote. Many would not vote because a secret ballot was not available.

Do you know of anyone in Richmond Virginia who is following this debacle of modern democracy?

Thanks!

The EFCA Blog's Response:

Although we have not personally followed the story you reported, it is nonetheless emblematic of the downside of the card-check procedure, and the potential corrosive effects the EFCA (and card-checks) can have on fair unionization procedures, and ensuring a democratic workplace.

That said, you should not feel powerless in the wake of card-check procedures--any legitimate concerns should be reported to the National Labor Relations Board to ensure a fair union representation process. Another option is the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (located in Springfield, VA), which can also assist with issues relating to "forced" unionism.

EFCA: The Big Misnomer

First off, many thanks to Darren Rumack from the Firm’s New York City office for keeping this blog afloat for the several months while I attended to a number of client matters before the NLRB. I appreciate his enthusiasm and effort and he will continue to be an integral part of this blog as we continue to move forward to expose the true Employee Free Choice Act—which is completely a misnomer, since it strips away employee free choice.

I have to say that I am amazed at how little the business community is aware of the potential for passage of the EFCA and how such will affect their business and the economy. Assuming a Democratic presidency and Congress, this proposed legislation is almost certain to pass. Hopefully members of the Democratic party, of which I am one, will take a serious look at the language of the proposed legislation and realize its potential before just voting, lock, step and barrel, with the party for passage. One such person, with at least some clout, is trying to have his party see the forest for the trees. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, former Democratic Presidential Candidate George McGovern has come out in opposition to the EFCA. McGovern said that the Democratic party "cannot be a party that strips working Americans of the right to a secret-ballot election." I agree.

The EFCA’s biggest misnomer is that it will strip away workers’ rights to choose, in a secret-ballot election, whether or not to be represented by a union. Now, of course, unions will argue that this choice is coerced by through the use of pro-employer campaigns that take place at the workplace following the filing of a representation petition at the NLRB. Again, this argument has been taken on by the NLRB which has on a number of occasions said that employees are wise enough to determine fact from fiction, truth from propaganda. However, the union’s disagree with this and want Congress and the President to pass legislation that will allow an automatic certification of the union upon presentation of a majority of authorization cards signed by employees. So, where is the choice? There is none.

It is my hope that over the next several months, right through the Presidential election and beyond, that I, along with Darren and other members of the Firm, will be able to educate readers as to the different aspects of the proposes legislation. Please bear with us, however, demands of the workplace may prevent us from posting weekly, but that is our attempt, if not more. In the meantime, feel free to post your replies (this will force me to respond) or e-mail us (which again will force us to respond)—I don’t like when my clients go unanswered.

Update--Case Dismissed

As an update to our readers--the complaints filed that we mentioned in our previous post have been dismissed without prejudice by the State of Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings.

The EFCA Fight Heats Up--In a Minnesota Courtroom

Article Prepared by Darren Rumack and Brian Caufield

The Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party has filed complaints with the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings against two groups who oppose the EFCA, alleging that they made false advertising statements regarding Minnesota Senatorial candidate Al Franken, who supports the EFCA. 

The complaint challenges print ads stating that Franken supports the elimination of secret ballot votes for workers, and wants to end worker privacy. Of course, while Franken might not have come out and said that, the EFCA would do just that, by authorizing card check recognition, and doing away with secret ballot elections.  

As election season gets into full gear with the party conventions rapidly approaching, expect to hear more about the EFCA in the near future.

The EFCA is a Loser at the Polls

Article prepared by Darren Rumack and Brian Caufield.

For all the talk amongst labor unions about the importance of passing the EFCA and supporting pro-union candidates, unions have neglected to share one bit of information--the EFCA appears to be a hugely unpopular piece of legislation in some states. 

According to polling data presented by the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, nearly two-thirds of voters in Colorado (68%), Maine (72%) and Minnesota (65%) oppose the passage of EFCA, and legislation that would eliminate private ballots in favor of card checks.

In what is sure to be a hotly contested election, the EFCA may become political dynamite for politicians who support the bill’s passage, particularly as awareness of what the EFCA actually entails grows amongst the electorate. 

Once again, the EFCA will be an issue to watch for this fall, and could become a bigger issue than anticipated in many swing states. 

Hawaii Governor Says No to Card Checks

Article prepared by Darren Rumack and Brian Caufield. 

As promised, Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle vetoed a bill that would have allowed the Hawaii Labor Relations Board to recognize a union based solely on card checks.

Lingle claimed that card check authorization would be a “poor substitute for the secret ballot and is ripe for abuse.”

Of course, this card check authorization scheme mimics that of the proposed Employee Free Choice Act, which if passed, would do away with secret ballot elections.

NLRB Rejects the EFCA in Favor of Maintaining "Abu-Ghraib-like Procedures"

Article Prepared by Brian Caufield and Darren Rumack

The debate over the Employee Free Choice Act (“EFCA”) has heated up once again, as the Senate Appropriations Committee held a hearing addressing complaints over the NLRB, and the potential passage of EFCA.

The debate broke down into two camps: on one side, those who oppose the drastic overhaul that the EFCA would bring to private sector labor relations. This group includes past and present NLRB board members, who favor more incremental reforms at this stage.

Current NLRB chairman, Peter Schaumber came out against this complete overhaul of the system, stating that both the Board, and the NLRA have “proven to be remarkably flexible and adaptive over many years.” 

On the other hand, a vocal contingent of EFCA supporters also attended the hearing, arguing that employers use scare tactics to pressure employees into rejecting unionization.

Perhaps the most memorable quote of the hearing came from Alan Hart, the managing editor of UE News, which is the newsletter for the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America. Hart compared the unionization process to the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, stating that “employees are taken into rooms for interrogations and intimidation, this is almost Abu Ghraib-like procedures we’re seeing these days.”

Union histrionics aside, it is clear that after a brief lull over the winter months, this contentious piece of legislation is going to be in the news once again. 

Unions seek power play in Washington State.

Although the Employee Free Choice Act has rightfully garnered much attention for the limits it would place on employers’ abilities to fight union organizing campaigns, organized labor is making a similar push on the state level to restrict employer options during attempts to organize the workplace. 

This blog has posted previous entries regarding state versions of the EFCA here and here, and now comes word of a new piece of legislation in the State of Washington that seeks to limit workplace communications.   The bill would ban employer communications about “matters directly related to candidates, election officials, ballot propositions, legislation, election campaigns, political parties, and political, social, community, and labor or other mutual aid organizations.” This could well limit an employer’s ability to make its case to workers during an organizing campaign.

Its hard to blame organized labor for seeking these changes that would make unionization an easier process for workers. Given the decline of the organized labor movement in this country in recent decades, unions are certainly not the indispensable organization in workers’ lives they once were. 

Really though, while unions have every right to make their lives earlier and to increase their membership, they need to stop hiding behind condescending phrases like “protecting employee’s free choice” or “protecting workplace privacy.” These are power grabs—pure and simple, and has nothing to do with improving the lots of workers in this country.

AFL-CIO gets it wrong on workers' rights--again

AFL-CIO National Organizing Director Steward Acuff is railing against the hijacking of the National Labor Relations Board by “by the corrupt corporate and radical right-wing forces,” supposedly backed by President Bush in a bid to deny the election of ‘progressive’ politicians. 

Acuff’s bone of contention is 61 decision handed down by the Board this fall that he claims “further restrict and weaken already shamefully weak and ineffective workers rights in America.”

Acuff seems to object mainly against the Board’s decision in Dana Corp., which as discussed in previous posts, offers a firm rebuke by the Board against the EFCA, and its would-be allowance of card-check recognition for unions.

It is articles like this that show how out of touch union organizers are with rank-and-file workers. Contrary to Acuff’s belief that secret ballot elections deny workers’ their right to unionize, elections protect a workers' free choice, by allowing them to make a selection by secret ballot free from any immediate pressure or coercion.

Apparently, the AFL-CIO is unable to distinguish between workers rejecting unionization on their own accord with some vast unidentified conspiracy to deny workers their right to unionize.  

 

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.