Tuesday, July 21, 2009

What's Left Without Card Check?

By Nathan Newman

David Kurtz on the front page of The New York Times asks "If you take card check out of EFCA, what's left?"

Actually, quite a lot. Let's rename the bill, the "Prevention of Illegal Firings Act" (PIFA) and it's still important labor law reform. The New York Times story David referred to cited a proposed compromise, where majority signup provisions would be dropped, but elections would be held within five days, employees could not be forced into mandatory meetings, and unions could campaign on company property during the election period. So what's that add up to in a typical election campaign.

The Union secretly collects cards, announces them and calls a snap election for five days later.

Employers are banned from coercing employees into mandatory meetings and, even better, unions get access to employer property to easily rebut employer arguments and even participate in voluntary meetings held to discuss unionization.

If anyone was fired over the next five days of the election, any court would wonder if it's not an anti-union firing, what was so terrible that the employer couldn't wait five days to deliver the bad news--so employer loses in court and owes three times lost wages to the employee, so any fired employee gets a very lucrative vacation if they get fired.

The company would also pay a penalty to the government of $20,000 per employee illegally effected.

With recognition, employers would have to negotiate a first contract or see an independent arbitrator impose a first contract - a strong incentive to the employer to bargain in good faith for a contract he or she can live with.

This is worlds away from the present situation where elections take well over a month at minimum and often far longer, while mandatory meetings and firings destroy union support and any penalties come in months and even years later for employer actions - and the costs to the employer from those penalties are so minimal that they act as no deterrence.

If anyone wants a frame for this new labor law, it's simple--cracking down on illegal corporate behavior during union elections. The bill becomes a "tough on crime" bill, pure and simple.

It's not everything labor wants and it's a dramatic compromise to placate conservative Democrats, but it would be a major improvement for workers rights if it passed in this form.

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