The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) garnered headlines during President Barack Obama’s presidential election. EFCA attention intensified when the legislation was introduced in both the Senate and the House of Representatives on March 10, 2009. But then, as the world’s attention shifted back to the economy, the flurry of focus on EFCA seemed to all but disappear. However, given recent proposed changes to EFCA, its passage appears significantly more likely, perhaps even imminent.
Recently, several Democratic senators have expressed support for elimination of the controversial card check provision. The card check provision would allow a union to be recognized if 50 percent plus one employees of the collective bargaining unit sign an authorization card attesting to their desire to be represented by the union. In contrast to current procedures, no secret ballot election would be held.
If the card check provision is scrapped, secret ballot elections would remain. However, the trade-off is likely to be a dramatically shortened period during which employers can educate their employees on the pros and cons of being represented by a union. As currently being discussed, secret ballot elections would occur shortly after the filing of an election petition (e.g., five to 10 days after the petition filing). Additionally, employers may be required to provide union organizers with access to company premises. The elimination of the card check provision may be enough to gain the necessary additional votes to ensure a filibuster-proof majority.
The elimination of the card check provision does not appear to affect the other two major components of EFCA: mandatory interest arbitration if the parties cannot voluntarily reach a first contract and enhanced civil penalties for unfair labor practices.
Employers should act quickly to prepare for the possible passage of EFCA.
ELI’s Strengthening Employee Relations course addresses managerial responsibilities for maintaining positive employee relations in order to appropriately recognize and respond to signs of union organization.