The Employee Free Choice Act [a.k.a. Card Check]: Learn the Basics
The WWA’s Government Relations Committee has identified the following legislative issue as one that may have an important impact on waterpark owner/operators in the coming year as it would impose major changes in the way Unions can organize new representation. The Employee Free Choice Act, or as it is more commonly called, “Card Check” passed the House of Representatives in March 2007, but it stalled in the Senate during the 110th Congress. The majority of opponents and supporters of “Card Check” believe that it will come up again for consideration during the 111th Congress sometime in early 2009. This act would amend the National Labor Relations Act in three ways:
- “Card Check” would allow union organizers to petition the National Labor Relations Board to certify the union when 50 percent of the workers sign cards indicating interest in union representation. Currently, union organizers ask workers at a facility to sign cards indicating an interest in an election. Once 30 percent have signed cards, the union can petition the Federal National Labor Relations Board to hold a secret ballot election. Both the union and the employer are given the opportunity to make their case, after which workers cast their votes in a federally-supervised election. If the union gets more than 50 percent of the votes, they are certified by the National Labor Relations Board and the employer must begin collective bargaining. Since “Card Check” would eliminate the election part of the process, there would be fewer controls in place for those workers who do not want to unionize. Under “Card Check,” a union has no obligation to tell an employer it is launching an organization drive. An employer may not find out an organizing campaign is underway until ordered by the Federal government to start collective bargaining. Likewise not all workers might know about organizing efforts, and many of them might not get the opportunity to vote. Also, “Card Check” in its current form does not set a time limit on how long signed cards can be held before being sent to the NLRB, nor does it set parameters on how often or where an employee might be approached.
- “Card Check” would require an employer to start collective bargaining with a newly formed union within 10 days of notification by the NLRB. Within 90 days, the parties are expected to have completed a first contract. If not, either side may refer the matter to the National Mediation and Conciliation Service. NMCS has exactly 30 days from the date of the request to strike a deal. Should this fail, either side can refer the matter to a federal arbitration panel. The arbitration panel will hand down a contract that is binding on both sides for two years. In its current forms, “Card Check” does not specify who will sit on a panel, how many panels there should be and what, if any, rights will be established for either side. In addition, since the timeframe under “Card Check,” is much abbreviated one side or the other might find it more beneficial to hold out for the panel’s decision rather than bargain in good faith.
- Under “Card Check” is that new, larger penalties could be imposed upon employers who have discharged or discriminated against employees, threatened to discharge or discriminate against employees or engaged in conduct that significantly interferes with employee rights during an organizing or first contract drive. Penalties on employers for back pay violations would increase to back pay plus two times the amount as liquidated damages. New civil fines for violating the National Labor Relations Act, which is not unforeseeable for those business owners who have not been through the process before, could be imposed for as much as $20,000 per violation.
To help you understand the role of unions, the National Labor Relations Act and the larger impact of “Card Check,” you are encouraged to review the following list of resources, publications and links to organizations who support and oppose “Card Check” legislation:
To read the full text of The National Labor Relations Act, click here.
To read the full text of the Employee Free Choice Act of 2007 [HR 800 EH & S.1041], click HR800 or S1041.
To find resources provided by the National Federation of Independent Business on “Card Check” and Union organization, click on this link: http://www.nfib.com/issues-elections/issues-elections-item?cmsid=49792
To find resources and information provided by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on “Card Check,” click on this link: http://www.uschamber.com/issues/index/labor/cardchecksecrbal.htm
To find resources and information provided by the AFL-CIO on “Card Check” and Union organization, click on this link: http://www.aflcio.org/joinaunion/voiceatwork/efca/
To find resources provided by the American Hotel & Lodging Association on “Card Check” and Union organization, click on this link: http://www.ahla.com/issuebrief.aspx?id=19498&
To review a detailed study on the impact of the Employee Free Choice Act by economist Dr. Anne Layne-Farrar entitled “An Empirical Assessment of the Employee Free Choice Act: The Economic Implications," click this link: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1353305
To review a collection of news stories, press releases and to read a case study by legal scholar Richard Epstein, “The Case Against the Employee Free Choice Act,” click on this link: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1337185
To read a case study by legal scholar Richard Epstein, “The Case Against the Employee Free Choice Act,” click here.