By Danielle Ringwood - 06/06/07 07:58 PM EDT
If I were trying to sell you something called the “Employee Coercion and Intimidation Act,” you would most likely not be interested. How could you explain supporting something with a title like that?
That’s the question supporters of the so-called Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) asked themselves when devising the terrible bill that would rob workers of the right to a private-ballot election when deciding whether to join a union. The answer they came up with was simply to give it a nice-sounding name. But a misleading title can only go so far when attempting to deceive America’s workforce.
The EFCA sounds great because we all want to be free to make our own choices. But the Orwellian title masks the fact that this legislation actually destroys free choice by stripping American workers of their right to a private vote.
Organized labor has justified this sweeping change by using surveys and studies from within their own ranks to create the myth that employers and our nation’s labor laws are to blame for organized labor’s dwindling membership figures.
This is simply not the case. Here are the facts:
Secret-ballot elections happen swiftly under the current law. The average time for a federally supervised election is 39 days, and almost all elections take place within 56 days.
According to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), employees are illegally fired in just over one percent of all organizing drives. In the rare instance when an employee is illegally fired, the NLRB has plenty of tools, including ordering that the union be recognized, to remedy the violation.
EFCA denies employees the ability to make a private decision whether to join a union. Section 2(a)(6) specifically states that once a majority of employees have signed union authorization cards, the NLRB “shall not direct an election but shall certify the individual or labor organization as the representative.” Plain and simple: no secret ballots, no elections.
Even worse is that the employees themselves are not the ones who will be collecting the signed cards.
Professional union organizers (often working on commission) will be running these card-check schemes and they will not tip their hand until they know they can bypass the private-ballot election process. One former union organizer testified before Congress that card check is really intended as a “sneak attack on workers.”
In a May 23 article in the Orange County Register, nurses organized through an employer-sanctioned card-check campaign complained that “they were not even aware that the vote was actually taking place.” Of course they weren’t aware, because there was no vote.
That same article quoted an NLRB career employee stating that it is common for his office to receive calls from employees who say, “We never had a chance to vote on this or they will say we never understood that signing this card would result in the union getting in.”
And this is supposed to be “free choice”?
Even more outrageously, EFCA supporters go one step further. This legislation also contains a compulsory, binding arbitration provision on first contracts. If the employer and union cannot reach a contract agreement within 120 days, the federal government mandates a labor contract that is binding on both parties for two years.
Compulsory binding arbitration means that employees do not have the opportunity to accept or reject their new labor contract. They will be stuck with this contract for two years, regardless of whether it meets their needs.
Given all this, it is not surprising that 90 percent of voters think this legislation is a bad idea and want private ballots preserved in the workplace.
Congress should abide by the wishes of their constituents, not those of the union bosses selling a terrible bill packaged with a deceiving name.
Ringwood is a senior director of legislative affairs of Associated Builders and Contractors and a member of the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, which is made up of more than 300 associations and organizations from a wide variety of U.S. industries.