Free Choice Act (EFCA)
By: Joe Davenport
March 16, 2009
For Yoda’s World
it is underway at last, the debate of the Employee Free Choice Act. So why is
it that this is the most feared thing since the sit down strikes of the 1930's?
Pure and simple this tool shifts power away from the
employer and into the hands of workers who wish to form a union.
"Workers who wish to form a union" is the key here. Despite what you might hear or read most union organizing is not the result of a group
of "union bosses" sitting around a table and picking targets, that is called 'strategic organizing and is about 1/4 of all
The rest of the time a phone rings or an e-mail pops
up from a worker somewhere who thinks a union would be a good idea at Whateverco's plant in Whereverville. Perhaps they were bullied, or insulted, or told if they didn't come in at 5pm on Thanksgiving they were
The union they call assigns an organizer (or a team
if it's a big group). Then it's off to Whereverville to find out if there really
could be a union at the whatever plant. The organizer meets with the person or
group that dropped the dime and starts learning about the plant and the workers. That
small group becomes an organizing committee led and trained by the staffer.
Very quietly the committee builds enough interest to
start the card process. Then comes the race with the boss a "blitz" where the
committee tries to sit down with every potential member and find out if they are willing to help organize, or wear a button
at work when the time comes or just sign the card if they want the union to piss off.
If all goes well the current law says the union can
ask for "card check “from the boss. Well the boss almost always calls for
an election-even if 87 of his 100 workers signed cards saying yes give me a union. This
where it gets sticky.
The boss will use every tactic he can think of to undercut
union support: he might fire organizers, or even hold required meetings where he'll threaten to close the plant, and say the
union won't do anything at all except collect dues, as well as remind them that we're a family here and they are not part
of the family. (Now all that except the last one is against the law but).
The changes under EFCA are that the WORKERS are the
ones who ask for an election if they don't want card check. If the boss fires
a worker for trying to organize, it'll cost him triple what the worker loses in pay (currently you only get what you would
have made minus any unemployment or pay from another job).
The biggest change is that there would be only 6 months
to negotiate a first contract, which is key, because most failed unions happen trying to get that first agreement, the boss
stalls and stalls and the dues come out and the workers get pissed off and call it quits. Under EFCA any issues left after
6 months would go to arbitration.
Some in the labor movement feel these changes will double
union membership, which would put the percentage of workers in a union at about 20 percent; the zenith of union density was
only 35% in the 1950's.
So it’s about power in the work place AND power
in elected offices.
Joe Davenport is a member of and sometime
Volunteer Member Organizer for AFSCME local 1488 Seattle