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The EFCA Is Now In Congress - Ready for a "Sopranos" Workplace?

Just to be clear before I start this post, this isn't a political site.  It's a "HR/Human Capital meets the business world" type of site.  Remember that as the post starts below.

The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) got re-introduced this week in Congress.  It's a bad bill on many levels.  You should care.  Good rundowns exist 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 Sopranos the 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.

Even if an employee signs the card, they can vote the other way in the union election.  Many change their vote in the election because that's how they really feel.  Many sign the card because they don't want to be hassled/harassed/intimidated in the workplace.

If the EFCA passes, there's no vote.   Once the necessary number of cards are signed, the union's in.  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.

And that's wrong.  That's not America. 

Here's the problem with that.  If the EFCA passes, Unions get authorized based on peer pressure.  Imagine a group of employees coming up to your work station/cube/desk/whatever and putting a card down and saying "you're with us, right?".. If you refuse, maybe the group starts to smear you in the workplace, maybe they start calling you at all hours of the night, etc.  Any type of pressure to get you to sign the card.  Your vote is public, and you're subject to harassment, not unlike the video below. 

Hat tip to Seth Borden of The EFCA Report for the video...Regardless of your political views, educate yourself on this bill and make your feelings known as a HR Pro to your representative/senator, etc...

Comments

Chris

Kris,
while I agree with you that from a purely business point of view, the EFCA is bad, I thought I'd offer some socioeconomic commentary on the three main parts of the Act:

1. 50% plus one signed cards MUST replace secret ballots.
This is terrible for the reasons you outline in your post. To me, this is a purely political move to give unions more power.
2. Quicker negotiations if a union is established.
To me, this is an improvement in the current system. No longer can an employer partake in the sleazy business tactics that basically freeze out a sanctioned union.
3. Stiffer penalites for "punishing" union supporters.
Again, an improvement to the current system. As it stands, it is pretty inexpensive for an employer to terminate anyone they suspect of starting a union.

A deeper look at the bill reveals a quite modest proposal beyond the card-check part (which I think business would be much more mixed in their opposition to). Yet, not suprisingly, it is the card-check part people are most up in arms over. I tend to agree with your point-of-view in regards to the card-check, and much of Congress once agreed with you as well. That's why the secret ballot was part of the original legislation.

It's also interesting to note that the secret ballot is not currently mandatory. A firm can, and some in fact do, recognize a union based on a card-check.

And finally, although the vast majority of the secret ballots are called for by the employer upon recieving a sufficient number of cards supporting a union, it is also within the powers of an employee to petition the NLRB to hold a secret ballot if the organizing employees have obtained a sufficient number of cards. This legislation not only takes power away from the employer, it takes power away from the employee who doesn't support the union.

laurie ruettimann

Hey, Chris has a really interesting comment. I want to read that blog!

Victorio

All of the talk about the EFCA has been bugging me and I finally realize why. It's because it doesn't speak to the deeper issue, which is how US labor relations are in desperate shape. Every time there's new legislation being proposed everyone falls into two camps-for and against. There's little consensus and the relationship remains adversarial.

The nature of business is shifting rapidly. With globalization, the recession, and other large scale changes occuring right now, it's imperative that this relationship change as well. Labor and business need to sit down, as partners, and figure out how to best collaborate for a common good. If they can't do that then we're all going to lose.

Michael Haberman, SPHR

That is too quick of a period of time for negotiations. When you have to start from a blank slate you need time to hammer out the agreements. In the current proposed legislation if you don't meet the 120 days you have an agreement put together by an arbitrator. An given the union biased leanings of the current administration that will not be in the best interest of the company.

Al

Kris,

I'm not sold on Unions. Of course, I work for a non-union represented company, but I have only seen turmoil in the grocery and automotive industries and I see the union efforts at the center of the issue.

If pay and benefits are at the heart of the issue, then let's talk about pay and benefits. If we pay workers more, then we will have to raise prices. It is a very delicate balance. If we provide our workers better benefits, then will they in turn take more responsibility and accountability in their health and lifestyle choices?

Having a union around to me is like having a third party present who takes a share from employees (union dues), takes a share from employers (per diem amounts per hour worked)to get a piece of the action. They then use the money and their power to influence their own cause, both politically and financially.

And with the current recession we have been in, it really makes me wonder why we still have Unions around. Do we really need to preserve the sanctity of union representation or should we work on getting people back to work, covered under some sort of managed health care system and get back to becoming a great nation where opportunity and freedoms exist for the will of the people?

A. Non

This legislation is a the democrats political payback to the unions for all the unions contribution dollars in the recent elections.

Besides the cards being collected by the union (hey, maybe we should hold polical elections this way....the candidates collect their own votes....so there's no guarantee of fairness)....the big issue here is BINDING ARBITRATION. Can you imagine an arbitrator, who has no stake at all in the issues, whether the business survives, whether the employees are treated fairly...can determine the terms of a collective agreement? A business might as well shut its doors in the United States, and employees might all seek work for the government, because that's where the only jobs will be.

Chris

sarcasm or serious? either way, it doesn't exist.

laurie ruettimann

I'm serious. Your comment is thoughtful and offers much more insight than most of the commentary out there.

Take the compliment. I mean it!

laurie ruettimann

Victorio, you're absolutely right. We need a thoughtful compromise to this debate.

kentropic

"Just to be clear before I start this post, this isn't a political site. It's a 'HR/Human Capital meets the business world' type of site."

Sounds good. But then you segue straight from that disclaimer to "The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) got re-introduced this week in Congress. It's a bad bill on many levels." And you approvingly cite a blog that brands itself as "common-sense conservatism."

That's all great, but it certainly IS political -- by definition (we're talking about a proposed act of Congress here, after all). Just sayin'....

BTW, there's another interesting EFCA debate going on over here (http://www.boingboing.net/2009/03/13/which-side-are-you-o.html). It starts with a positive review of a pro-labor (NOT pro-union) book, but the comments are evenly distributed across the opinion spectrum, and some of them are fierce!

kentropic

Broken link. Here's another: http://bit.ly/Ymqa6

Kris Dunn

Chris -

You provide a good rundown of some of the specs of the EFCA, along with some opinion. Laurie's supportive of you because she's a proponent of the bill. That said, I agree with you that card check is the big issue with the bill.

Mike H. is going to disagree with that assessment, and I understand his thoughts. For me, without card check, a company that is treating employees well should be able to remain union free. The exception would be in some blue collar industries, and I suspect Mike's concerns are valid there.

Two issues with your assumptions. You haven't been on the front lines, so your read is purely academic. You talk about sleazy employer tactics, but don't have the experience to know that there's never a penalty for a union organizer saying whatever it takes to get a card signed in the process. You need more experience in the field before you can accurately assess that. Also, the provision that allows an employer to recognize a union based on cards rarely happens in the field. Trust me on that. That's AFL-CIO spin...

Kentropic - you rode a bunch of people in the comments section to the Ayn Rand post, so I'm not suprised you'd take this as political. This isn't a political site, but when politics impact the world HR pros operate in, I'm entitled to write about it. Calm down, and be sure to vote republican next time around. HA! I'll check out the link, but remember, the focus of the site really isn't that broad and mainstream, it's HR mixed with business.

A-Non, Victorio and Al - thanks for stopping by...

Laurie R - stop trying to run my comments or I'll get Paulie Walnuts involved...

kentropic

Have voted Republican before, and may even do so again ;-)).

Right now, with so much at stake and the legal landscape shifting so rapidly, HR/business interests are bound up with the political sphere like they haven't been since the `30s. EFCA could be our generation's NLRA, with implications just as long-lasting.

We might as well roll up our sleeves and get elbow-deep in the debate: we'll probably have to live with the end results (whatever they are) for a good long while....

Chris

Kris,
my hyperbole aside ("sleazy" was a bit over the top), do you see the other two provisions as burdensome to employers?

You are right that I have no "front line" experience (thanks for the reminder), and comments by Michael and A. Non about the short negotiation timetable is useful for someone like me.

Of course it is most likely an academic exercise to discuss the merits of the other two components, as this bill will live or die on the card check. But just for fun, what's your take on the shortened negotiation period and the stiffer penalties?

Dmorris

Hi Chris, I believe you are a bit naive here. Let me clarify from personal history. I have nothing against people in unions, BUT I know of 2 HR people in local Auto Manufacturers here in Alabama that have had votes in the last year. THAT my friends, are where the Unions are focused first. It is Toyota, Mercedes, Hyundai, and Honda, everyone outside of Detroit that they have not exploited yet. They tried to castigate them earlier this year when the big three were begging for money. These companies are making cars for less than the unionized companies in detroit, about 2500 per car less, and why? because the average cost per employee is about 50.00 for non union plants, a gopod wage by any standards, and about 78.00 for union shops, a GREAT WAGE that can price them out of the market. Also, the big three have let the Unions run all over them.

Does anyone understand that if the employees sign ANYTHING after this bill passes, and it will pass unless we get on the wagon, it can have union “small print” embedded into it and the unions do not have to tell the worker what he is signing and that the signature on it makes them a union worker immediately? I mean the "+1" gets signed and the company has 60 days to ratify a contract or the GOVERNMENT STEPS IN. The unions already have these marketing programs set up and they made them so that they do not look like you are signing up for a union but when signed, you have given them the right to force your company to go union.
Does anyone realize that if you have a charity campaign drive like a blood drive, United way, or even the girl scout cookies being sold by individuals, the Union then has the right to come in and have "the same drive" that United way has? Meaning, my company does allot for charity and they will be forced to give unions the same time and attention to make them unionized. It is just like what they are doing with speech on the radio with “The Fairness Doctrine”.
This is payback for the hundreds of thousands of dollars that the Unions gave to the President and other Congress so they would back the Unions, only 10% of the total US workforce is in a Union, this has not changed since the 1970”s. Do you know who the majority of these unions are? If you said the car manufacturers, you are wrong, 38% of the Unions are GOVERNMENT UNIONS. I know I know, why do Government employees need unions?
Look at the facts according to Gallop polls: http://www.gallup.com/poll/116863/Majority-Receptive-Law-Making-Union-Organizing-Easier.aspx
I am not usually a “dooms day” type of person but we need to wake up or we will all be forced into binding contracts and the Government. Look at what is happening with compensation, Look at what is happening with GM. Does anyone realize that 60% of GM’s total payroll is to cover retired people?

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