Employee Free Choice Act:: Myth vs. Fact

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MYTH: The Employee Free Choice Act abolishes the National Labor Relations Board’s "secret ballot" election process.

FACT: The Employee Free Choice Act does not abolish the NLRB election process. That process would still be available under the Employee Free Choice Act. The legislation simply gives workers the choice of forming their union through an election or through majority sign-up. The majority sign-up process has been a widely used path to union representation since 1935, but workers may only use the majority sign-up process currently if their employer agrees. The Employee Free Choice Act puts that choice in the hands of employees rather than their employer.

MYTH: The National Labor Relations Board’s “secret ballot” election protects workers’ democratic rights.

FACT: Secret ballots alone do not guarantee fair elections. Under an NLRB election, employees have no right to free speech, no protection against intimidation from supervisors, and are regularly forced to attend anti-union meetings. They are also typically forced to attend one-on-one interviews with their managers to reveal their electoral preferences. In contrast, union organizers are not allowed to set foot on the property, the one place where all the “voters” can be found.

MYTH: The Employee Free Choice Act is payback for unions’ support of Democrats.

FACT: The Employee Free Choice Act is about rebuilding and growing our nation’s middle class.  If the current crisis has taught us anything, it’s that economic growth cannot be sustained on credit. We need real wage and benefit growth. Ensuring the freedom to collectively bargain is an effective way of re-linking workers’ rising productivity with rising wages. 

MYTH: Union wages and benefits have resulted in the auto-industry collapse and are irrelevant to today’s economy.

FACT: Workers and their unions are not responsible for the auto industry’s troubles.  Labor costs amount to only a tenth of the cost of building a car. All ten of the most efficient auto plants in North America are union plants. Setting aside their legacy costs, the Big 3’s wages are on par with the Japanese auto makers. The American auto industry has made some bad business choices but agreeing to provide middle class jobs was not one of them.  

MYTH: The Employee Free Choice Act would require public union card signings.

FACT: Under current law, employees already must sign cards or petitions saying they support a union in order to obtain an election. And, when an employer agrees to a majority sign-up process, employees must sign cards to show the union’s majority status. The union authorization card under the Employee Free Choice Act is treated no differently than a petition for election or a card under a majority sign-up agreement under current law. As with petitions for an election, under the Employee Free Choice Act, the NLRB, not the employer, would receive the cards and determine their validity.

MYTH: The Employee Free Choice Act will encourage intimidation and harassment by labor unions against workers.

FACT: Coercion and pressure drops when workers form a union through a majority sign-up process.  Workers report much less pressure from all sides during majority sign-up campaigns than with NLRB elections. But, harassment by unions is not the problem. Unlike employers, a union organizer can’t fire you, cut your pay, or deny you a promotion. If you’re an employee actively trying to organize your coworkers, you have a one in five chance of getting fired by your employer for simply exercising your rights.

MYTH: The Employee Free Choice Act would require a secret ballot election for workers to get rid of a union.

FACT: Under current law, no election is necessary to disband a union. The Employee Free Choice Act would not change this. Under current law, if an employer has evidence, such as cards or a petition, that a majority of workers no longer supports the union, then, without an election, the employer is required by law to withdraw recognition of the union and stop bargaining.

MYTH: The Employee Free Choice Act’s sponsors support secret ballot elections for workers in Mexico, but not in the United States.

FACT: Members of Congress wrote to Mexican authorities in 2001 arguing in favor of a secret ballot election in a case where workers were trying to replace a sham company-dominated union with an independent union. The Employee Free Choice Act is consistent with this: it would not change the requirement for an NLRB election in cases where workers seek to replace one union with another union. Indeed, the original framers of the National Labor Relations Act intended elections for precisely those cases where multiple unions were competing – particularly where one was a sham company union and another was a real independent union.

MYTH: Given the economic crisis, now is not the time to enact the Employee Free Choice Act.

FACT: The Employee Free Choice Act is needed to address underlying economic problems that helped create the current crisis and to ensure that the recovery is fair and sustainable. Dozens of prominent economists, including three Nobel Prize laureates, recently signed a statement in support of enacting the Employee Free Choice Act, as “a critically important step in rebuilding our economy.”

MYTH: The Employee Free Choice Act requires mandatory arbitration that may force businesses to be uncompetitive.

FACT: No reasonable arbitrator would force conditions onto businesses that would force them out of business. Even though workers may choose to form a union, employers often stall when it comes time to negotiate a first contract, and current law provides no incentives for the parties to come to an agreement. Under the bill, employers or employees may request mediation from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service if no agreement on a first contract has been reached after 90 days. If an agreement cannot be mediated, the dispute would be referred to binding arbitration.  All of the time frames can be extended by mutual agreement.  Experience shows that having an arbitration option available brings parties closer together, and, as a result, the parties resolve their negotiations on their own terms and in good faith.

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Comments

  1. Dave Harding says:

    Blue Dogs and Citigroup Fight the Employee Free Choice Act

    Labor gaining ground was essential to putting the economy back together after the Great Depression and it is essential today. The activists working in favor of the Employee Free Choice Act are to President Barack Obama what the civil rights movement was to John F. Kennedy, or the C.I.O. was to Franklin Roosevelt. It’s time to level the playing field no matter what the cretins say.

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  2. Dave Harding says:

    Unionbusting Firms Profiting from Corporate America’s Fear of Workers’ Rights

    “Union avoidance” firms are marketing “Employee Free Choice Act Defense Kits” for $5,000 a set.

    Link

  3. Dave Harding says:

    The Employee Free Choice Act 101

    The freedom to form a union is a democratic right that is under attack. Too many workers are prevented from freely choosing to band together in a union to bargain collectively with their employer on workplace issues.

    More than half of all workers in the United States say they would vote to join a union if they could, but union membership in the private sector is less than 8 percent today–down from one-third of private sector workers in the middle of the 20th century–because existing laws make forming a union a Herculean task that few want to undertake.

    The Employee Free Choice Act is a sensible reform that would protect workers’ right to join together in unions and make it harder for management to threaten workers seeking to organize a union, but conservatives are waging war against the bill.

    The Employee Free Choice Act will restore balance to the union election process by allowing workers the choice to organize a union through a simple majority sign-up process–a system that works well at the small number of workplaces that choose to permit it, raising penalties when the law is violated and promoting productive first contract negotiations with a mediation and arbitration option.

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