Thursday, February 22, 2007

Why EFCA is Necessary

There's been much talk about the Employee Free Choice Act which was recently reported out of Committee in the House. Among other things the bill would allow the formation of a union if a majority of workers sign union cards rather than requiring a secret vote after workers sign union cards. I find the arguments that opponents are using very amusing.
"What you are seeing is an unprecedented effort by organized labor to overturn years of labor law," said Ringwood, a lobbyist for Associated Builders and Contractors. Like most business officials, she argued that removing the secret ballot would diminish workers' rights.

"This is moving very quickly and people are concerned that the rights of employees would be taken away."

By signing a union card workers are already expressing their support for a union, one must wonder at this point why a secret ballot election should be required after a majority of employees have already shown their support for a union. The answer of course is that oftentimes unions fail upon a secret ballot election. But this isnt because desire for a union is any less strong, but rather because employers threaten workers and run dishonest campaigns against the union. Further, as I pointed out a year ago, NLRB regulations against campaigns that intimidate workers are inneffective.
In 1997, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union lost a unionization election at the sprawling plant, built in this rural town 75 miles south of Raleigh. But it was not until 2004 that the National Labor Relations Board upheld an administrative law judge's decision that threw out the election results.

Seven years that workers in the North Carolina Factory I referred to in that post were without a union while waiting for the NLRB to rule on what was obvious. In that case workers were getting paid a full $3 an hour less than their unionized counterparts, the company may well be saving more than enough in reduced labor costs without a union to afford NLRB punishments after a 7 year wait. As I said at the time:
Seven years to finaly rule that the company violated the workers rights to a fair vote for a union. Seven years that the company was allowed to continue abusing its workers and for which the workers had no recourse of a union. Even after the ruling, organizers fear that the company would continue to act in the same way, intimidating workers so that they still would be unable to get a fair vote. If a new vote were held today and the company engaged in the same tactics and the vote had the same result, it would take another seven years to get the same ruling from the NLRB. Another 7 years for which employees would have no way to defend themselves against company abuses.

Go back and read that original post in which I quoted a fair share of a New York Times article on the subject, it was very disturbing. Its cases like these that show why we absolutely need EFCA, because these "confidential votes" are oftentimes anything but fair and are merely a means for employers who want to prevent a union to intimidate their employees to prevent them from voting for one. As to questions of whether its going to pass, I think it will, the bill is almost certainly going to pass the House as it has 230 cosponsors, both Democrats and Republicans. It has such broad support in the Democratic caucus, and has support of some of the most conservative Democrats out there that I see no possible way that it doesnt have the votes to pass the Senate, I would expect Collins, Snowe, and Specter to support it as well. Given the fact that it seems to have some reasonable Republican support and even has several Republican cosponsors, there might be enough votes there for an override if Bush vetos this. In short, I'm very optimistic about this bill. I guess the question on a veto override is whether there is any support from faux moderates like Gordo for the bill, if there is then any Bush veto will be overridden.


Elliot Andrews said...

Contrary to the claims on this blog and elsewhere, the NLRB has broad powers to deal with rouge employers who willfully violate the National Labor Relations Act.

-Where an employer’s unlawful actions have undermined the union's majority and made a fair election an unlikely possibility, the Board has the authority to order the employer to recognize and bargain with the union even where there has been no secret ballot election or where the union has lost an election. This authority was upheld in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1969 decision in NLRB v. Gissel Packing Co.

-Section 10(j) of the National Labor Relations Act gives the National Labor Relations Board the authority to seek petition any U.S. district court for “such temporary relief or restraining order as it deems just and proper.” This can include the immediate reinstatement of a discharged union supporter while unfair labor practice proceedings are pending.

-Where a party refuses to comply with a Circuit Court’s order enforcing an NLRB decision, the NLRB’s Contempt Litigation and Compliance Branch can seek civil penalties, criminal sanctions, and extraordinary injunctive relief. (See NLRB v. Local 3, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers)

Even Rep. Robert Andrews (D-NJ), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions, acknowledged that:

"Most employers are not bad actors; however, I do believe the current structure of the representation process perpetuates the ability of a few employers to coerce employees without consequence."

While Labor has done a remarkable job of garnering support in Congress and in liberal media outlets, this drastic legislation will have trouble gaining true public support.

Cwech said...

A couple of points Elliot, first, while the NLRB has that authority it is rarely excercised, as they didnt in the rather extreme case that the NYT outlined which I quoted in this and previous entries. Further, the time lapse on NLRB action is so great that even if the NLRB does rule in favor of workers and does require recognition of the union those workers will have gone years without the representation that they are afforded by law. Furthermore, I agree that most employers follow the law, but that is all the more reason to protect employees from those few who do not, for it is those on the fringes that this is meant to protect. If the NLRB actually starts agressively cracking down on union busting employers (which they havent had any desire to do since the Reagan Administration) I'll entertain those arguments, since that's not the real world we need reforms.