The Employee Free Choice Act
The current system of forming unions in the United States is broken. Over 60 million workers state that they would join a union today if given the chance, but most of these workers will not get the opportunity to collectively bargain for a fair contract because employers routinely break the law without repurcussion. The Employee Free Choice Act will level the playing field for workers who wish to join a union through three main provisions:
Certification on the Basis of Majority Sign-up
Authorizes the Union to serve as bargaining representative to the workers, providing the majority of them have signed cards in favor of the authorization. Written Majority Authorization is by far the fairest way for workers to join a union, because it gives them the freedom to choose without being subjected to illegal threats and intimidation from their employer in the run-up to an election.
First Contract Mediation and Arbitration
If the employer and the union are unable to agree on a contract within the first 90 days of negotiation they may refer to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS). If mediation is unable to result in a contract after 30 days, the issue will be referred to arbitration. The results of the arbitration will be binding to both the union and the employer for a minimum of two years.
Stronger Penalties for Violations While Employees are Attempting to Form a Union or Attain a First Contract
Provides additional penalties for employees and employers who violate the National Labor Relations Act during any period where employees are trying to form a union or negotiate a first contract. These penalties include:
Fines employers up to $20,000 for willfully and repeatedly violating the rights of their employees during an organizing campaign or first contract drive.
Treble Back Pay
Increases the amount that an employer must pay when an employee is discharged or discriminated against during an organizing campaign or first contract drive.
Mandatory Applications for Injunctions
Just as the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is required to seek an injunction against a union that violates the Act, this provision would require that the NLRB treat employers the same way. The NLRB will seek an injunction against any employer who significantly interferes with employee rights during an organizing campaign or first contract drive.
Why working families need the Employee Free Choice Act
Union workers are paid 30% more than non-union workers on average, and are more likely to have healthcare and pension plans. This is why surveys have shown that the majority of Americans want to join a union. The freedom to join a union is not only a fundamental right, but is also the best way to fight for economic justice. More union members means a bigger, stronger middle class, less poverty, fewer families with no health insurance, and a higher standard of living for working men and women.
The current union authorization system leaves the power heavily in the hands of employers. Employees attempting to organize under the current system are frequently subjected to anti-union rhetoric, harassed, and in many cases even lose their jobs. Their rights are often violated because the current penalties for employers who violate labor laws are extremely weak and seldom enforced. The Employee Free Choice Act strengthens these deterrents, and also uses a system less susceptible to exploitation. Workers who have used the written majority authorization system have overwhelmingly reported it to be preferable to the current NLRB voting procedures. Under the written majority system, workers feel less pressure from employers and from pro-union co-workers, making it a much fairer process.
The Current System is Broken:
- 25% of employers illegally fire at least one worker for union activity during organizing campaigns.
- 78% of employers force employees to attend one-on-one meetings with their own supervisors where they are pressured to vote against the union.
- 92% of employers force employees to attend mandatory captive audience meetings where they are pressured to vote against the union.
- 82% of employers will hire a firm that specializes in union busting. You can learn more about the shadow industry of "union avoidance" by clicking here.
What is the status of the Employee Free Choice Act?
The Employee Free Choice Act passed in the House of Representatives in 2007 and gained a majority of votes in the Senate, but did not have the 60 votes necessary to defeat the filibuster of Senate Republicans. President Bush also threatened to veto the bill, if passed. Now, thanks to the hard work of union activists in the 2008 elections, we have more members of Congress who support the Employee Free Choice Act and President Obama has pledged to sign it into law once it reaches his desk. As Senators in 2007, President Obama and Vice-President Biden were both co-sponsors of the Employee Free Choice Act. The entire Labor Movement is now mobilizing to educate members of Congress, union members and the public about the importance of the Employee Free Choice Act, to ensure that it is a top priority in the 111th session of Congress.
It’s going to take all of us working together to pass the Employee Free Choice Act so workers can bargain together for a better life. Here’s what you can do to help:
Major Study showing no union intimidation from majority sign up
No Holds Barred: The Intensification of Employer Opposition to Organizing
For more talking points, training materials and other useful resources, please visit www.employeefreechoiceact.org
For other useful information on the Employee Free Choice Act, please follow these links:
Click here to read a response from Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Robert Haynes to an anti-Employee Free Choice Act op-ed authored by two union-busting attorneys in the Boston Herald.
See which Massachusetts legislators have pledged their support for the EFCA
Written Majority Authorization is now on the books in Massachusetts, allowing public employees to join unions by achieving majority support in writing. Read more about this landmark law and watch video of Governor Patrick signing it into law here.