This legislation would change federal law with regards to the rights of workers to unionize. Employees would be allowed to form unions by signing cards authorizing union representation. Harsher penalties would be established for employers who violate employee rights when workers seek to form a union and new mediation and arbitration processes for first-contract disputes would be instituted. This legislation was introduced in the House and Senate during the 108th, 109th and 110th Congress. The House passed it on March 1, 2007 for the first time.
Following the vote, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said, “It’s simply about establishing fairness in the workplace.” Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), who opposed the bill, said the real purpose of the measure was “taking care of union bosses.” The legislation was filibustered by Senate Republicans in June 2007.
Under the Employee Free Choice Act, the current system of secret-ballot organizing elections would be replaced with card checks, where workers publicly sign union cards to organize and join a union.
The card-check campaign eliminates a workers right to secret-ballot election and forces their preference to be public. Both the union and the employer would know exactly which workers want to join the union. Once the organizers collect signed cards from a majority of a company’s employees, all of the company’s workers would be forced to join the union without a vote.
The initial bargaining agreement arbitrations would declare that if a union and the employer is unable to reach an agreement within 90 days, either party may refer the dispute to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services (FMCS) for mediation. If the FMCS was then unable to bring the parties to agreement after 30 days of mediation, the dispute would be referred to arbitration, and the results of the arbitration would be binding on the parties for two years. The time limits could be extending only if both parties agree.
The Act would also impose stronger penalties for violations while employees are attempting to form a union or obtain a first bargaining agreement. Interestingly enough the stronger penalties are for the employers only.
Perhaps we should consider the following: Does a ballot cast in private or a card signed in public better reveal a worker’s true preference about whether to join a union? Can we truly make an informed decision without hearing both sides? Is an Employee really free to make their choice in this scenario?