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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/11/09

Clearing Up Myths About the Employee Free Choice Act

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I was talking with a friend recently, and the subject of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) came up. This friend says he is pro-union, but opposes the EFCA because, he said, it would require workers to openly sign a petition for a union prior to a secret ballot election. A minimum number of petition signatures would be required first, he said, to move the union possibility forward to the secret ballot election. He thought this additional step was unnecessary and not a good idea. He was pro-secret-ballot, but not for open signatures. I understand his concern. However, some research showed me that the open signatures are nothing new. They are, in fact, required under current labor law regarding the formation of unions. Wikipedia describes the current process as follows:
"[U]nder current U.S. labor law, the card check process begins when an employee requests blank cards from an existing union, and requests signatures on the cards from his or her colleagues. Once 30% of the work force in a particular workplace bargaining unit has signed the cards, the employer may decide to hold a secret ballot election on the question of unionization. In practice, the results of the card check usually are not presented to the employer until 50 or 60% of bargaining-unit employees have signed the cards. If the employer decides to demand an election, and the majority of votes in the election favor the union, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will certify it as the exclusive representative of the employees of that particular bargaining unit for the purpose of collective bargaining."
The difference under the EFCA is that employers no longer have the power to decide if the unionization attempt will go to a secret ballot election. Under the EFCA, that decision would be in the hands of the workers, as it should be. And the employers will no longer have the ability to use the election process to delay, obstruct and intimidate workers in an effort to resist organizing efforts. As the organization American Rights at Work describes it, "[t]he Employee Free Choice Act makes no change to the current union election process. It simply amends the law about majority sign-up to put the choice of how to form a union in workers' hands, not their bosses'." But it's not surprising to see the corporations twisting the facts to try to scare workers, the public, and Congress into opposing the EFCA. More often than not, they tend to see the workers as disposable commodities rather than valuable resources. And organized labor poses a threat to their currently unmitigated power. But there are exceptions -- like a business owner who posted the following comment in response to a misguided anti-EFCA article by Senator George Voinovich (R-OH) on Politico:
"As a small business owner in Ohio, Mr. Voinovich's home state I am a supporter of card check. I have never understood while [sic] business owners would get caught up in denying their employees the right to bargain as a group for better wages and benefits. I wnat [sic] to do everything to ensure my employees are happy ones. Since my business has become a union shop, worker productivity has become more efficient. Even in the depressed economy my profits have been steady. I prefer to have one represenattive [sic] I can talk to about worker isues instead of having to take time out of my busy schedule to discuss concerns with every employee. I am very disapointed [sic] in my sneator [sic] that he is not on board with this issue."
So unionization can, in fact, be a win-win situation. If only the bosses would ignore the right-wing propaganda and set aside their greed long enough to look at the big picture instead of just the immediate bottom line.
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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)
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