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Lies, Spin and the EFCA - Let's Get Something Straight About Employers Who Voluntarily Opt for Card-Check Today...

If you've read this blog for more than a month, you know how I feel about the ironically-named Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).  It's a bill that's bad for employees, bad for employers and less-importantly, bad for HR people.  Find good rundowns here, here and here...

If the EFCA is signed into law, your life as a HR pro changes.  Once the EFCA is law, employees would no longer have Sopranosthe right to a confidential vote on whether they want to be represented by a union or not.  If you know how organizing works, you know that today employees express their interest in having a vote by signing what's known as an authorization card.  Once the union gets the necessary number of cards (30% of employees, but most unions shoot for 50% because that's what they need to win the resulting election), an election is called and employees then get the luxury of both unions and employers campaigning for their vote.  Then they vote via a confidential ballot, much like your presidential vote.

If the EFCA passes, there's no vote.   Once the necessary number of cards are signed, the union's in. The concept is called Card Check.  No confidential election (like the one you get to elect the president), just a bunch of people coming up to you and asking you to sign a card.

I'm here today to talk about some of the Spin that comes from the pro-EFCA camp.  Spin point #1 from the pro-EFCA camp goes something like this:  You wax poetic against the EFCA.  The pro-EFCA crowd comes back to you and says something along the lines of "You know, even under the current law, companies can and do accept card check as the intent of the employees to be organized, and often forego their right to call for a secret election, instead accepting card check as employee intent and begin negotiating a contract."

That's some quality spin. The message is that the EFCA really doesn't change the practice in the field, since some companies accept card check today.  If you don't have a lot of experience in the field, you might buy that.

Here's the reality: the only companies that are accepting card check for union-free operations are the ones with HUGE embedded unions elsewhere in the enterprise.  As a result of the presence of those unions, these companies are often open to negotiating their right to fight union organizing away in exchange for other concessions at a much larger negotiation table.

Example - BellSouth had a huge union presence within its landline (home phone and network) organization. At one time, it's wireless operation was fiercely union-free.  It made the business decision that as part of the bigger picture, it could extract meaningful concessions from the union it was dealing with by offering a "neutrality" pact for it's union-free wireless operations.  As a result of giving that "neutrality" negotiation chip, BellSouth agreed not to aggressively tell it's side of the story regarding the downside of unions.  Many neutrality agreements that are bargained away also include card-check provisions as well.  If you've already agreed NOT to be honest with your employees regarding why a union might be a bad idea, why not give up card check, right?

As you might expect, neutrality agreements almost guarentee that a work unit will be organized.  But it has nothing to do with the concept of card check.  It's part of a much larger picture

So the next time a pro-EFCA person tries to tell you that curent law allows companies to recognize card check today, tell them they're right.

Then tell them card-check is only provided by companies who are looking to extract concessions from embedded unions elsewhere.  Card check is rarely granted or recognized by companies who are 100% union-free.  It's the exception, not the rule.   Tell them you don't agree with it when it happens under those circumstances.

It's a lame spin point from the pro-EFCA crowd, and it relies on people not having enough experience to know the difference between between spin and true fact.  Say no to the EFCA, and educate someone today on what a stinker this bill is.


John Hollon

Great post. I can hardly believe the former HR types who are supporting EFCA, but you hit the nail on the head -- they really don't have much experience and that's why they probably see the EFCA as a good thing. Unfortunately, any idiot can start a blog, so some of these former HR types can go on and on about the glories of EFCA without really understanding the huge shift there would be if this terrible proposal gets passed into law.



Amazing how the tide is beginning to shift in the legislative branch as this bill is being re-introduced in the Senate. Even California's Senator, Mrs. Feinstein, is re-thinking her stance on the legislation. Republicans and moderate Democrats now seem to be leaning against the bill, with only the most liberal Democrats still continuing their hard line stance in strong support of the labor effort to pass this bill.

Please make sure that all your readers let their state Senators know how they feel. Our Senators will not consider voting against the bill nor changing it to produce a more balanced version for both sides without getting our feedback. In fact, companies can utilize their represented organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce and other organizations to help get feedback to the Legislative branch. Our company has utilized the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) as a source of getting the word out to our representatives in Congress as well as the Senate to fight this badly written bill.

I, for one, appreciate your diligence in covering this story, for it will have a lot of impact on both the business as well as HR world for years to come.


great post, dude!

Elizabeth - HR Consultant

The EFCA supporters forget to mention three key facts:

* According to the George Meany Institute, 25% of employees who sign a card later vote "No" in a secret ballot election;
* According to NLRA statistics, unions withdraw about one-third of their organizing efforts before the actual secret ballot election is held, typically because they aniticpate losing the election; and
* When elections are held, the union loses 42.5% of the time.

Unions don't want to be held to the complete organizing process because most of the time they are not succesful!

Dave Palen

Another thing to think about is how could a party called the Democratic party (and our teleprompter president)be so strongly behind this bill? It is because this party depends on the millions upon millions that labor unions provide them. It is a disgusting tale of labor unions collecting the hard earned pay of workers and using it for their own slush funds and perks and to give to their political friends. EFCA should be laughed away.

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