Major Change in Unionization Rules —Fiorenza
In February 2007, a bipartisan coalition of Congressional members introduced a bill that would dramatically change the NLRA with respect to both union organizing and bargaining over initial collective bargaining agreements. The bill, entitled “The Employee Free Choice Act” (EFCA), is expected to pass both Houses of Congress; however, President Bush has promised to veto the legislation. Nevertheless, the AFL-CIO and “Change to Win” Website are strongly advocating for the passage of this law on their Websites, e-mails, newspaper ads and overall lobbying efforts. It is believed that even if President Bush vetoes the legislation, it will likely be reintroduced following the election of a new president in 2008.
The EFCA essentially makes the following five changes to the NLRA:
1) The union can be certified as the bargaining representative of a company’s employees without a campaign or secret ballot vote. Specifically, the bill would allow unions to simply submit “authorization cards” from a majority of employees (within a proposed bargaining unit) to become certified. In other words, if a majority of the employees in the unit sign authorization cards, the union would automatically represent them without any campaign or vote, i.e., without the employees ever hearing the employer’s side of the story.
As mentioned above, the NLRA currently does not require an employer to recognize a union unless the union receives support by a majority of employees who vote in a secret ballot election. Such an election is typically conducted by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) after a 42-day campaign period. During that campaign period, the employer has an opportunity to provide employees with information about union representation, so that employees can make an informed decision in the secret ballot vote. The EFCA would essentially do away with this campaign period.
2) Once the union is certified, the EFCA would require the employer and union to reach agreement on their first contract within 90 days. If the parties cannot reach agreement during that time, either party can request assistance from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. If that assistance does not result in a contract within a month, the matter would be referred to binding arbitration. The results of the arbitration would create the parties’ first collective bargaining and would be binding for a period of two years.