The Employee Free Choice Act Essay

Abstract:

The employee free choice issue has emerged as one of the critical aspects facing the American public as individuals have taken opposing positions on the matter. Some are worried of the rights and protections that the concept guarantees the American workers whereas the others are pleased with the expanded rights that come with the issue. Nevertheless, we remain to be observant and watchful on the destiny of the issue as it awaits the Congress debate.

Introduction:

The employee free choice issue has been brought about by the ongoing debate on the Employee Free Choice Act that is before the Congress. The Act is meant to enable the workers to have a bargaining power for better benefits, wages, and conducive working conditions through the restoration of the employees freedom to choose on whether to join a union or not. The Act has been formulated to address the obstacles that workers who have been wishing to have a collective bargaining have faced in the past. It also guarantees the employees particularly those interested in collective bargaining a chance to get a contract. The employees are also allowed to form unions through the signing of cards that authorizes the union representation. In a nutshell, the employee free choice Act is meant to cause an overhaul to the federal law especially in regards to the rights of the employees to form unions.

This paper shall look at the employee free choice concept in depth regarding its pros and cons if implemented.

The Employee Free Choice Act:

There is a growing bi-partisanship from policymakers in regard to the support of the Act which guarantees the employees a free choice and fair chance to come up with a union. The Employee Free Choice Act is simply meant to allow for the employees to have a say in the formation of their unions without fear of being victimized at the workplace. The legislation if passed shall allow the workers a fair and direct opportunity to form unions through majority sign up, helping them to secure contracts with the employers, and toughening the punitive measures against the employers who contravene the workers’ rights (American Rights at Work, 2010).

The bill as proposed has several sections which address the employees’ plight that includes certification on the basis of majority sign up; first contact mediation; and stronger punitive measures for violations of the employees’ rights. The bill would provide for the certification of a union as a bargaining representative of employees in the event that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) approves that most of the workers have signed the authorization cards to designate the union as their representative during bargaining. The NLRB is required to come up with the authorization language and procedural requirement that will establish the legitimacy of the signed authorization. The employees would be required to participate in an NLRB supervised election to vote on whether they are to join the union or not. NLRB has been given the mandate to ensure that the election process has been followed even in situations where majority of the employees are perceived to be in favor of the unionization (American Rights at Work, 2010).

Under the First-contract mediation clause, when an employer and the union are engaged in a bargain for the first contract and fail to reach an agreement within 90 days, then the dispute may be referred to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) by either party. In case FMCS fails to settle the matter within 30 days, then the dispute has to be referred to an arbitration and the decision of the arbitration shall be binding for a couple of years. The time limits that have been imposed may be extended only if the two parties agree to the same. The Bill calls for stiffer penalties for the violations that may be incurred when the employees are pursuing their rights to form a union and/or attain a first contract. Punitive measures for the violations of the National Labor Relations Act include civil fines of up to $20000 for each violation in regard to the employees’ rights in organizing a campaign or first-contract drive. There shall also be an increase in the amount that an employer should pay when a worker has been discharged or discriminated against during campaign organizing or first-contract drive to three times back pay (American Rights at Work, 2010).

What is interesting about the Employee Free Choice Act is the way it has caused divisions amongst the political class and the business fraternity. The Democrats are seen to favor the Bill whereas the Republicans are opposed to it in big numbers. In a speech that was given by the United States President, Mr. Barrack Obama, he urged the workers to give their support to the Democrats as opposed to the Republicans whom he accused of having driven the American economy in shambles. The President went further to say that he would continue to fight for union friendly legislations that will benefit the American workers. Though many Republicans are opposed to fight down the Employee Free Choice Act, the President gave his word that he was going to push for the passage of the Bill that if passed would enact ‘a card check’ system that would facilitate the organization of non-union work places (National Union of Public and General Employees, 2010).

On the other hand, the workers and the unions are pleased with the Bill whereas the business community is not in favor of the Bill. The workers have argued that the workplaces are currently tilted in favor of the lavish chief executives whereas the workers have always struggled. They believe that the Employee Free Choice Act shall be able to bring back the balance that shall give employees an opportunity to form unions and get better working conditions that shall enable them pursue their dreams (National Union of Public and General Employees, 2010).

Divergent Views on the Employee Free Choice Act:

The Employee Free Choice Act has resulted into two opposing camps; on one side there are those in support of the Act whereas the other side is opposed to the Act. Each side has argued reasons behind their standpoint and holds on what is believed to be true. The union leaders have claimed that the legislation is long overdue as it makes it easier for the formation of unions which enables the workers to bargain for better wages. They argue that the legislation shall give the employees a chance to form unions without being subjected to intimidation. With polls suggesting that non-unionized employees in the United States are calling for more voice at the workplace, the Act seeks to guarantee such workers to form unions which will in turn deal with the issues facing the employees. The Act also provides ample time for the negotiation on initial contracts at the same time keeping employers from frustrating workers’ desire for a union contract through delays. The employees are thus protected from the mistreatment they often get from their employers (Barbash, 2010).

Those opposed to the Act have argued that the Act shall promote anti-business agendas from the organized labor. Opponents have argued that the unions shall use the Act to coerce workers to join the unions since they are facing numerous challenges such as declining membership and difficulties in doing the recruitment particularly in the private sector and pension funds. Glenn Spencer, who is the executive director of the Workforce Freedom Initiative that is opposed to the Act argues that “Looking at those three challenges, that is what’s making unions very aggressive in (Washington) D.C. and making them push for this agenda” (Gagliano, 2010, para 5). The opponents also argue that giving the employees the freedom to choose on whether to join unions or not may result into job losses as they view the Act as not business friendly. They also argue that providing the employees with the opportunity to choose on forming the unions may make them susceptible to coercion and intimidation from union organizers and/or fellow employees. The reality of the matter actually contravenes this because, since the inception of the National Labor Relations Act, there has been only a paltry 42 incidences in which workers have been forced to join the unions compared to thousands who have faced intimidation at the workplace for trying to form a union. In the year 2007 alone, more than 25,000 employees who attempted to form unions were subjected to all sorts of intimidation including firings (Barbash, 2010).

Conclusion:

The Employee Free Choice issue has brought about a heated debate with each side advancing its claims to be true. Nevertheless, my personal opinion would support the employee free choice concept because as someone who believes in democracy, the employees should be given their freedom to choose on what they want. In fact, the employee free choice is designed to encourage the democratic principle that American society has always been hailed for in many aspects. Union formation should be driven by the free wish of the workers to form one devoid of intimidation from the employers.

Reference:

American Rights at Work, (2010). The Employee Free Choice Act. Retrieved on 7th August 2010 from;

http://www.americanrightsatwork.org/employee-free-choice-act/home/the-employee-free-choice-act-20080418-555-102.html

Barbash, F., (2010). Politico Debate. The Employee Free Choice Act-Rebuttals. Retrieved on 7th August 2010 from; http://www.politico.com/arena/archive/efca.html

Gagliano, G., (2010). U.S. Chamber fights Employee Free Choice Act. Retrieved on 7th August 2010 from;

http://www.bradenton.com/2010/07/31/2472351/us-chamber-fights-employee-free.html#ixzz0vPJexHsv

National Union of Public and General Employees, (2010). Obama renews support for Employee Free Choice Act. Retrieved on 7th August 2010 from;

http://www.nupge.ca/content/3451/obama-renews-backing-employee-free-choice-act