The Employee Free ChoiceAct (EFCA, H.R.1409, S.560), also known as the “card check” bill, isthe most significant and contentious piece of labor legislation ofrecent years. Organized labor leaders designated it as their toppriority for the 2008 election and devoted considerable money, time,and resources on behalf of Democratic candidates supportive of the Act.On the other hand, the business community—including the U.S. Chamber ofCommerce and other large industry groups—have pushed back against EFCA with vigor unusual for established companies. Clearly, there is a lot at stake here.
EFCA consists of three components. This paper provides an overview of each provision and compares it to today’s organizing methods. EFCAis designed to dramatically increase union membership, which is at anall time low of around 12 percent—and only 7.6 percent in the privatesector. It would do this by effectively eliminating secret ballotorganizing elections and replacing them with a procedure known as “cardcheck,” whereby union organizers approach employees to sign union cardsout in the open. This allows for an open atmosphere of coercion, whichsecret ballots are designed to avoid.
In addition, EFCAguarantees a first contract through binding arbitration. This meansthat, if an employer and a newly recognized union cannot agree on acontract after a specific period, then a federally appointed arbitratorcan impose a contract.
Finally, EFCAwould increase penalties for “unfair labor practices” (ULP) againstemployers only, which would give unions a new tool for browbeatingemployers. Unfair labor practices, a category of offense created underthe National Labor Relations Act, includes actions by employers whichare intended to discourage unionization.
Unions argue that EFCAis necessary because secret ballot elections, the method by which mostworkplaces are organized today, are time consuming and cumbersome. Inreality, organized labor sees this bill as a powerful tool with whichto revive its decades of membership decline. EFCAwould allow unions to undertake more aggressive organizing campaigns—atthe expense of individual workers’ privacy and freedom of association,as well as employers’ freedom of contract.
The Employee FreeChoice Act is anything but. It takes away an employee’s free choice, isdetrimental to American businesses, and will further stifle the U.S.economy. The following survey of EFCA’s provisions explains how.