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Debate: Employee Free Choice Act

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Should the US Congress pass the Employee Free Choice Act?


Background and Context of Debate:

The Employee Free Choice Act is a piece of legislation that would change federal law in order to, according to the bill's authors, strengthen the rights of workers to unionize.
It attempts to do so by changing the procedure by which workers unionize. Currently, union campaigns must secure support from 30% of workers in a company through card-ballots, which subsequently sends the campaign into a secret ballot election. If a majority of workers then vote by secret ballot to unionize, a union may be certified by the National Labor Relations Board and established.

The Employee Free Choice Act (H.R. 800, S. 1041) intends to change the law so that a union can be created by a majority vote from the card-ballot process alone, avoiding the second process of a secret ballot election. It also establishes stronger penalties for violation of employee rights when workers seek to form a union and during first-contract negotiations and provides for mediation and arbitration for first-contract disputes.

The legislation was introduced in both the House and Senate during the 108th, 109th, and 110th Congress. It passed in the House on March 1, 2007 for the first time, but was filibustered by Senate Republicans in June 2007.

Worker's rights: Does EFCA strengthen worker's rights?


  • EFCA strengthens workers' ability and right to unionize Employer Free Choice Act. American Rights at Work - "The Employee Free Choice Act would allow workers to form a union through “majority sign-up.” If workers know they want a union, we should have laws that let them have it. The Employee Free Choice Act would require an employer to recognize its employees’ union when a majority has signed union authorization cards. Under current law, management can refuse to recognize a union even when 100 percent of employees have signed authorization cards. After a majority of workers have signed cards, an employer can still call for a separate election. Under the current system, then, the employer gets to decide whether a separate election is necessary. The Employee Free Choice Act would give this choice to the workers. Read more about majority sign-up."
  • EFCA preserves employee choice with majority sign-up voting Opponents of the Employee Choice Act argue that somehow the Employee Free Choice Act eliminates employee rights to free choice through secret ballots. But, this is is false. The EFCA replaces secret ballots with card-ballot systems, and institute a number of important measures to better enable employees to freely vote to unionize.
Kyle Trygstad. "The Employee Free Choice Act". Real Clear Politics. 26 Aug. 2008 - "The Employee Free Choice Act takes away veto power from CEOs and gives employees the free choice about whether to join a union. When a majority of people in a workplace say they want a union, they should get a union. That's democracy. That's what the Employee Free Choice Act does.
When people try to form a union now, they're met with virtually unregulated resistance from anti-union companies who don't want to treat their workers with respect. The Employee Free Choice Act restores the balance in the workplace, where almost every scale is tipped against people who just want to have a voice at work."


  • Employee Free Choice Act eliminates workers' right to secret ballots Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), an opponent of the bill, stated "It is beyond me how one can possibly claim that a system whereby everyone – your employer, your union organizer, and your co-workers – knows exactly how you vote on the issue of unionization gives an employee 'free choice...It seems pretty clear to me that the only way to ensure that a worker is 'free to choose' is to ensure that there's a private ballot, so that no one knows how you voted. I cannot fathom how we were about to sit there today and debate a proposal to take away a worker's democratic right to vote in a secret-ballot election and call it 'Employee Free Choice.'" [1]
For example, Metaldyne Corporation agreed to allow the UAW to organize its workers with a card-check campaign in exchange for concessions at the bargaining table. The UAW soon collected union cards from a majority of workers, and Metaldyne agreed to recognize the UAW as its employees' rep­resentative. Soon afterwards, a majority of the com­pany's workers submitted a signed petition stating that they did not want a union and requesting that the NLRB decertify their union.[16] The signed union cards did not reflect the employees' true preferences."

Unions: Should EFCA increase union size?


  • Employee Free Choice Act responds to worsening conditions for workers AFL CIO on the Employee Free Choice Act - "It’s Time to Restore Workers’ Freedom to Form Unions. America’s working people are struggling to make ends meet these days and our middle class is disappearing. The best opportunity working people have to get ahead economically is by uniting to bargain with their employers for better wages and benefits. Recent research has shown that some 60 million U.S. workers would join a union if they could...But the current system for forming unions and bargaining is broken."
Michael Whitney. "At Convention, Campaign Launches for Employee Free Choice Act". Open Left. 26 Aug. 2008 - "Why is the Employee Free Choice Act so important? People are struggling in this country. Today's workplaces are tilted in favor of lavishly-paid CEOs, who get golden parachutes while middle-class families struggle to get by. The Employee Free Choice Act can restore the balance, giving more workers a chance to form unions and get better health care, job security, and benefits - and an opportunity to pursue their dreams. When more workers are in unions, our economy can be strong again."


With secret ballots, unions win just over 50% of their elections. With card authorizations, however, unions win more than 80% of the time. And that could spell big trouble for Manufacturers.
In 2005, a large number of workers who joined unions did so as a result of Card checks. That includes 4,600 workers at Wynn Las Vegas, 5,000 janitors in Houston, and 16,500 workers at Cingular. Two decades ago, the percentage of workers who joined unions following card checks was less than 10%."
  • Unions are dwindling because few workers care to join. James Sherk and Paul Kersey. "How the Employee Free Choice Act Takes Away Workers' Rights". Heritage Foundation. 23 Apr. 2007 - "Few Workers Want to Organize. Union activ­ists contend that the low level of unionization in the United States proves that elections do not reflect workers' free choice. They argue that most Ameri­can workers actually want to join a union. They back this up with polling numbers showing that 53 percent of non-union workers, or 57 million work­ers, would like to belong to a union. However those numbers are highly suspect. The AFL-CIO commissioned the poll. Peter Hart, a Dem­ocratic pollster, conducted it. The poll itself remains unpublished, and the AFL-CIO has not revealed the questions or polling methodologies used. Publicly publishedpolls conducted by nonparti­san pollsters show the opposite: Relatively few non-union workers want general representation. Zogby polling shows that, by a margin of more than 3 to 1, non-union workers do not want to belong to a labor union.[49] Because a union must win the support of a majority of a company's workers to win recognition, the fact that relatively few workers belong to a union is not surprising."

Intimidation: Would the EFCA reduce intimidation?


  • Employee Free Choice Act protects unionizing workers from intimidation Supporters of the Employee Free Choice Act argued that during the weeks (or months) it took to set up the election, management often conducted efforts to dissuade workers from organizing. Many workers reported being threatened with replacement if they ever (as part of a union) chose to strike. Others claimed that employers “predicted” future workplace closures, which under current law was legal so long as they did not “threaten” it. In some cases, employers were even reported to have fired worker activists in an attempt to deter future unionization efforts, knowing it would take years for reinstatement orders to take effect.[2]
  • Secret voting systems allow for employer abuses. In the words of one labor activist, government-supervised secret-ballot orga­nizing elections "look more like the discredited practices of rogue regimes abroad than like any­thing we would call American."[3]
  • EFCA gives employees equal access to injunctive relief. "The Employee Free Choice Act Meaningful. Remedies Against Employer Coercion". AFL-CIO - "The Employee Free Choice Act gives employees equal access to injunctive relief. Currently, only employers are entitled to mandatory injunctive relief when their rights are violated. Employees and their unions have no similar remedy. Under current law, the NLRB is required to seek a federal court order to protect employers from certain prohibited conduct by unions. These cases receive top priority, and injunction petitions are filed in federal court within 72 hours of an employer filing a charge against a union. The Employee Free Choice Act mandates similar expedited injunctive relief when workers are fired or other significant violations of employees’ rights occur during organizing efforts or during the period when employees are seeking to negotiate a first contract. The NLRB must file for an injunction promptly after the filing of a meritorious charge, and courts may grant immediate interim relief, including immediate reinstatement of fired employees."


In a card-check campaign, groups of organizers meet with individual workers at their homes or else­where and press them to sign a union authorization card. Organizers do not simply present the argu­ments for and against joining the union and then ask for a worker's support. Instead, they employ psychological manipulation to induce workers to sign after hearing their pitch."

Economics: Is the EFCA good for the economy/business/workers?


  • There is significant public support for EFCA. In support of the bill, the AFL-CIO also noted a poll showing that more than three-quarters of Americans (77%) support strong laws giving employees the freedom to make their own choice about whether to have a union in their workplace without interference from management. [23]


  • EFCA would force employers to campaign year-round. "The Impact of the Employee Free Choice Act on Employers". Ford and Harrison - "Employers Must Consider Year-Round Campaign. EFCA allows a union to gather signatures without the employer knowing anything about it until the union asks the NLRB for certification. At that point, it is too late for the employer to do anything about it. Facing that scheme, an employer would have to consider seriously communicating with employees throughout the year about the benefits of operating union-free. This not only would be a major distraction for the entire business, but also any discipline would take place in the context of the employer campaigning against the union. The odds of any adverse employment action becoming the subject of an unfair labor practice charge would increase dramatically."

Penalties: Are the EFCA penalties for employers a good idea?


  • EFCA raises penalties on employers violating unionization laws "US: Support the Employee Free Choice Act". Human Rights Watch. 27 Feb. 2007 - "The Employee Free Choice Act would strengthen the penalties for anti-union discrimination committed during an organizing drive or first-contract negotiation by increasing the amount due victimized workers; providing for civil fines of up to $20,000 per violation for willful or repeated illegal acts; and requiring the NLRB to seek injunctive relief if it reasonably believes that an employer “significantly interferes with, restrains, or coerces employees” in the exercise of their rights, as is already required in similar cases against unions. These reforms would not change the basic rules governing workers’ right to organize in the United States. Instead, they would give them teeth, making US employers think twice before violating existing US laws protecting freedom of association."


  • EFCA is biased toward punishing employers and not unions. According to the Heritage Foundation, the EFCA wrongly "increase[s] penalties for unfair labor practices committed by employers but not by unions. Each of these provisions would be bad for American workers."

Arbitration: Is the EFCA arbitration process a good idea?


  • EFCA allows employers or employees to seek negotiation mediation Employer Free Choice Act. American Rights at Work - "Allow employers or employees to request mediation if they’re unable to negotiate a first contract. Under current law, anti-union employers often drag workers through lengthy negotiations by delaying bargaining sessions, withholding relevant information, and putting forth bogus proposals. Even though these tactics are illegal, there are no effective deterrents to prevent “surface bargaining.” The Employee Free Choice Act will strengthen workers’ ability to achieve a first contract within a reasonable period of time. Read more about mediation & arbitration."


  • EFCA wrongly imposes binding arbitration on companies Force flawed binding arbitration: The EFCA would require that a binding arbitration be required in the event that union and employer negotiations reached an impasse. Independent arbitrators, writers from the Heritage Foundation argued, could be a very useful tool for resolving disputes, however, binding arbitration leaves unions and employers at the unpredictable whims of an arbitration panel, "leaving management and workers to deal with the consequences."

Pro/con sources



See also

External links

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