The Employee Free Choice Act is a bill that was drafted when it had no chance of moving successfully through Congress. It sought to eliminate union elections by allowing unions unlimited time to campaign and then requiring employers to accept the union if sufficient numbers of employees expressed interest. The Bill’s supporters argued that eliminating secret ballot elections would prevent employers from coercing employees during a campaign period. In reality, however, coercion occurs at the point when organizers ask coworkers to sign on to a union campaign. The Bill would have retained that problem, while eliminating an employer’s right to express differing views.
Yesterday Democratic Senators negotiated a compromise to the Bill by retaining an employee’s right to a secret ballot election on becoming unionized. This is a significant development and a gain for employees and management alike.
The Bill still retains other, poorly thought out provisions. For example, if there is an impasse in negotiating a first contract, a third party will be brought in to impose contract terms. But the agency that would manage that process is not presently staffed to do so, and the procedure by which a third party would decide which proposals to impose has not been outlined. Additionally, the civil penalties provided in the Bill would be based on a host of factors that do not include the effect on the employer.
It is clear that the Bill is progressing through the Senate, but it is not the cakewalk that it’s organized supporters had hoped for. Stay tuned.