“Since When Is The Secret Ballot A Basic Tenet Of Democracy?” says Teamsters President Jim Hoffa in support of EFCA
The Employee Free Choice Act (“EFCA”), S.560, was introduced on March 10, 2009 in both Houses of Congress. The text of the bill is identical to the one introduced in 2007 which was passed by the House of Representatives and rejected by close vote in the Senate. The House version has 222 sponsors while the Senate version is sponsored by 40 Senators, all of whom are Democrats. A variety of union leaders, led by Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President, praised the introduction of the proposed statute. Hoffa went so far as to question whether the secret ballot election was even a “basic tenet of democracy.”
The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions conducted a hearing on the morning of March 10, 2009, entitled “Empowering Workers to Restore the Middle Class.” The hearing was entirely devoted to promoting the introduction and passage of the proposed statute. Witnesses called to testify at the hearing, described EFCA as a “reasonable, modest approach” to “level the playing field.” Senator Casey from Pennsylvania continued to propound the fiction that EFCA does not eliminate the secret ballot, but rather allows employees to choose between a secret ballot election and majority card check.
How The Process Would Change Under The Employee Free Choice Act
- EFCA would make employer recognition mandatory if the union collects written authorization cards signed by a majority of employees in an appropriate unit. If the union collects cards from a majority, EFCA prohibits the NLRB from conducting an election. The employees do not get to choose whether to have an election. It’s the Union’s choice. This would effectively eliminate the secret ballot election since no union would choose a campaign and an election over automatic recognition based on authorization cards.
- If the union and the employer are unable to agree on a first contract within 90 days, mediation by a federal mediator is mandatory. Absent agreement within 120 days of the election, EFCA requires the parties to submit to binding arbitration. The arbitrator would be empowered to decide the terms of the first contract and impose them on the parties for two years.
- EFCA would authorize civil fines of up to $20,000 per violation against employers found to have willfully or repeatedly violated an employee’s rights during an organizing campaign or first contract drive. EFCA would also create additional penalties, including triple damages, for employers who are alleged to have interfered in union organizing among their employees.
There Is Still Time To Act
While it is difficult to predict EFCA’s legislative path, the current wisdom is that the House will await Senate action on cloture and EFCA itself before taking up the measure. Apparently, House members are reluctant to take a stand on this legislation until they are certain it is necessary. On the Senate side, it seems unlikely that EFCA’s sponsors will press forward until the second Senator from Minnesota is seated and the clouds hanging over President Obama’s Illinois replacement have been lifted. In other words, there is still time for interested parties to make their voices heard in Washington.
If you are opposed to the passage of EFCA in its current form, you should be aware that the key vote on EFCA will occur in the Senate on the question of cloture. Both sides agree that currently it is an extremely close question which may be decided by one vote. The following Senators are NOT co-sponsors:
Arkansas — Blanche Lincoln
Arkansas — Mark Pryor
California — Dianne Feinstein
Colorado — Mark Udall
Colorado — Michael Bennet
Indiana — Evan Bayh
Louisiana — Mary Landrieu
Missouri — Claire McCaskill
Montana — Jon Tester
Montana — Max Baucus
Nebraska — Ben Nelson
New Mexico — Jeff Bingaman
North Carolina — Kay Hagan
North Dakota — Bryon Dorgan
North Dakota — Kent Conrad
Virginia — Jim Webb
Virginia — Mark Warner
Wisconsin — Herb Kohl
While a number of organizations are engaged in this lobbying effort, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and various state chambers of commerce have been extremely active in the lobbying process and would welcome your support.