The Obama Administration has been vocal lately of its plans to push for more labor-friendly policies and tackle worker issues as part of its agenda on middle-class economics. In the previous months, the president has called for labor law changes although it is still unclear if revisions will truly be made. With the last attempt to revise the labor statute being the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) years ago, labor unions, employees and employers alike will just have to wait and see. The EFCA passed the Congress but did not make it to the Senate. Yet despite the failure, contentions between proponents and opponents continue.
The Employee Free Choice Act
EFCA, also referred to as “card check” legislation was supposed to make some modifications to the current National Labor Relations Act, specifically:
1. The act would have allowed for a union to be recognized if more than 50% of the employees sign a card symbolizing their desire to form a labor union. This will affect the current labor law that allows for casting a secret ballot if only 30% of the employees openly express their thoughts on creating a union.
2. It would have given a labor union the right to require the employer to start negotiations for collective agreement within a period not exceeding 10 days.
3. Employers would have been penalized more for labor-related violations have committed against employees.
List of Pros of the Employee Free Choice Act
1. Employees will be able to practice the right to join and form labor unions without having to undergo secret balloting.
In the current labor law, if 30% of employees are pushing for a creation of a union, they have to prove that majority of them want to have a union by way of secret balloting if the management objects to this. With the existing labor law, the management can accept but is not required to agree with the formation of a union. Proponents assert that with the EFCA, there is no need for a secret ballot if more than half of the workforce had already signed a card indicating their plans to form a union.
2. Employees will be protected from abuse of their rights as workers and be given their requests.
In reality, employers have the ball in their hands when it comes to the fate of their employees. There are some who fire members of their team for several reasons and do not offer security of tenure. Others discourage employees from joining unions in exchange for keeping their jobs. Advocates for the act believe that this will protect employees from unfair labor practices since employers will not be the ones to have control entirely.
3. It is mutually beneficial to both parties.
Supporters of the EFCA say that with freedom of employees to join labor unions, they are ensured to get the right compensation packages, better working conditions and benefits. As a result, they will be more engaged and productive. In turn, this productivity will yield sales and profit. In a nutshell, this will be a win-win situation for companies and their employees.
List of Cons of the Employee Free Choice Act
1. The EFCA will allow unions to coerce employees to be members in relation to card check.
Critics contend that with the EFCA requiring an employer to acknowledge a union based on the number of employees who signed for it, some employees will be exposed to harassment and coercion by the union in joining. They argue that not all employees are in favor of labor unions and if a card check will be implemented, workers will be forced to be members.
2. It is anti-employers.
Opponents of the EFCA, some belonging to the business sector, say that the passing of this Act will only harm employers since the union will be in control to demand higher wages and benefits for union members. This gives them the power to ask for illogical demands which will affect the company’s finances. They also added that it only exists for the union and not really the employees since it will give the former no choice but to be members.
3. It can lead to lawsuits and financial loss on employers.
With making it easier for the formation of unions, this would mean more representatives for employees. Groups which are against the EFCA are concerned this power and freedom can lead to more lawsuits being filed and more demands being asked. In the end, companies will be the ones at the losing end.
4. The penalties to be imposed on employers are too much.
One of the sections of the Bill would have resulted to stiffer penalties on employers who are found guilty of violations against their employees. Although opponents agree with the current law where management which commit offenses, such as illegally terminating an employee, are to pay or compensate the said employee, requiring employers to pay three times of the amount of the back is too much.
5. It will only weaken the economy.
One drawback pointed out by critics is the effect on U.S. economy if such Bill will be passed. If companies will be suffering from lawsuits and demands from unions representing employees, it can drive investors to withdraw their support to the company. This can lead to losses and potential closure of businesses. If this will happen, it is the economy that will take the beating.
Although the Employee Free Choice Act did not make it to the Senate, leaders and groups are continuously working on changing some parts of the current labor statute. However, the nation is divisive on this controversial issue. The EFCA has its benefits and setbacks seen by two groups from opposing perspectives. Both express their agreement on the Act supporting and strengthening labor unions but have different views on the issue. Whether there will be attempts to modify the present law on labor in the future is still a question. In the meantime, supporters of labor unions are still for EFCA while critics and most members of the business community oppose it.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.