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[xmca] Employee Free Choice Act

Hello, all -- 

I don't usually do this, and I won't do it often.

However, I've recently been having conversations with people who one might expect to intuitively support the Employee Free Choice Act, which is in Congress right now, but who are skeptical about it because of the "secret ballot" issue and the idea that "unions want this" -- which usually means that something shady is going on. 

The Employee Free Choice Act allows for majority choice (if a majority of employees at a workplace sign a card saying they want union representation, they've got it), arbitration of first contracts (meaning that if an employer and a union can't come to an agreement within two or three months, the process first goes to mediation then to arbitration, and they get a contract) and financial penalties against employers who retaliate against workers for union activity by, for example, firing and blacklisting them. 

These are all just enhancements of existing law, the 1935 National Labor Relations Act, which is widely -- I'd say almost universally -- defied, ignored, etc and which lacks teeth. Employers are by law required to bargain "in good faith" but if they don't -- no problem! 

The "secret ballot" issue is a very effective red herring. It appeals to people who understand that unions have something to do with democracy and "civic engagement" but don't have enough direct awareness of how severe and relentless employer opposition to organizing has been over the last 30 years. The way things are now, there is no such thing as a secret ballot. In fact, the only protection a worker can invoke if he or she gets fired during a campaign is if he or she can prove that the employer was aware that he or she was pro-union!

In the discourse that's out there, what you hear is that "unions" want EFCA. Actually, unions don't need EFCA - people without unions need it. But unions -- especially the AFL-CIO -- are carrying the water for it, because no one else can because they'll get fired, blacklisted, etc. Which is what EFCA is all about.  

I've recently been in some environments where good people congregate and I've been struck once again by how little is known by even very well-meaning and conscious people about work, working conditions, and the need for representation in the context of work. So in case someone asks you, "What is this EFCA thing all about, isn't it just thug unions trying to crush the secret ballot?" Now you know. 


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