At the top of organized labor’s agenda for 2009 is passage of The Employee Free Choice Act (“EFCA”). President Obama has announced his support for this legislation, which is designed to increase union membership and fundamentally alter the employer-employee relationship.

The EFCA has three principal provisions:

(1) The elimination of secret ballot elections by employees to determine if they want to be represented by a union. Instead, a union will be certified by the National Labor Relations Board if a majority of employees sign authorization cards designating the union as its bargaining representative.

(2) After a union is certified, if the union and employer are unable to agree to an initial contract, the dispute is referred to binding arbitration and first contract terms are imposed by the arbitrator for two years.

(3) The imposition of financial penalties on employers for violating employees’ rights during organizing campaigns or first contract negotiations.

Employers are strongly opposed to passage of the EFCA, and most polls show that a majority of employees also oppose its basic terms. If the EFCA is enacted in a form even resembling the current legislation, it will fundamentally alter employer-employee relations more than any legislation since the enactment of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935.

Republicans in Congress are seeking to preempt the EFCA by their introduction of the Secret Ballot Protection Act, which would permit authorization of union representation only if the union prevailed in a secret ballot election.

The EFCA represents a critical front in the attempts of organized labor to expand its influence in the new administration. The outcome of Congress’ consideration of the EFCA will thus be closely followed.