Wednesday, March 11, 2009

No Freedom of Choice Under New Legislation

The much-anticipated Employee Free Choice Act was introduced in both chambers of Congress yesterday afternoon. The House version of the bill, H.R. 1409,was introduced with 223 co-sponsors, or more than half the members of the House. The Senate version, S. 560, had 40 original co-sponsors. (The Library of Congress has not yet published the text of the Senate version, but I will update the links when they do.)

The deceptively-named Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) would strip a worker of his or her right to a secret ballot when choosing whether or not to join a labor union. Instead, if a union organizer collected 50 percent plus one employee’s signature, a union could organize and subject employers and employees to federally-mediated arbitration with the union to decide pay rates, hours, benefits, and other labor matters.

Unfortunately, the card check system often leads to misleading information, coercion and intimidation from union organizers and coworkers who support unionization. Recently, organizers for the Service Employees International Union in Oregon and Minnesota were accused of telling workers that a signature on an authorization card was only to get more information. Young or inexperienced workers could be particularly exposed to these misrepresentations and pressures.

The EFCA is expected to pass the House without much challenge. The fact that the bill already has a majority of House members as cosponsors pretty much guarantees its passage.

The real battle will be in the Senate, where a super-majority of 60 votes is needed to cut off debate and vote on the underlying bill. Due to the way the Senate works, there are two votes needed to pass a bill: the first is to cut off debate (or cloture) and needs 60 votes to pass. The second vote is on the bill itself, and only needs a simple majority. With an issue this controversial, some senators might "play politics" and vote for cloture but against the bill. That way they can appear to vote against the bill, while in practicality voting for it. IAAPA members need to apply pressure to their Senators and remind them it is not enough to support cloture and oppose the underlying bill: In order to support our industry, senators must vote against both cloture and the bill itself.

IAAPA members should have already received an e-mail alert about the Employee Free Choice Act with a link to our Grassroots Action Center where they can contact their elected officials. If you have not already done so, it is important to contact your senators well in advance of any vote on the bill. In the next few days, we will be reaching out to members in key states with additional information, and giving them the tools for even more effective advocacy. The fate of this legislation will come down to a few select senators and we need to be sure they know the stance of our industry.

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