The Employee Free Choice Act: From 2003 to Today

Members of Congress soon will cast votes that show us where they stand on the Employee Free Choice Act. As key senators engage in negotiations over the bill, supporters of workers' freedom to form unions aren't backing down on three key principles:

  • Workers need to have a real choice to form a union and bargain for a better life, free from intimidation.

  • We have to stop the endless delays and make sure workers can get a fair first contract.

  • There have to be real penalties for violating the law.

Over the past few months, opponents of the Employee Free Choice Act have more than once declared the bill dead, but in fact we're still working hard to to ensure labor law reform happens this year. We've come along way from where we were several years ago.

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Senator Franken making us proud already

The first bill Senator Al Franken co-sponsored after being sworn in yesterday was the Employee Free Choice Act. It's a cause Paul Wellstone would have supported strongly. (Click here for background on the EFCA.)

The Hill reported yesterday,

As expected, Franken has been assigned to the Judiciary Committee, Indian Affairs Committee and Aging Committee. He will also sit on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee once the panel finishes marking up the healthcare reform legislation.

I don't understand the logic of making Franken wait until after the health care bill markup before joining the HELP Committee, but at least he will be there when the Employee Free Choice Act is debated.

Getting to 60 votes on the EFCA will be a challenge, but Senator Tom Harkin has been working on a compromise since March. He told Bloomberg News in May that the "card check" provision may have to be dropped from the EFCA in order to get the bill through the Senate. "Card check" means that workers could form a union if a majority sign a document stating that they would like to join a union. Harkin suggested that a compromise bill might incorporate other changes to the election process and procedures for forming a labor union.

In that interview, Harkin did not mention whether binding arbitration would be a part of a workable compromise. Some people consider binding arbitration provisions to be as important a part of the EFCA as card check.

Whatever compromise Harkin crafts, I'm glad to know that Franken will be a voice for strong labor reform on the HELP Committee. Incidentally, Harkin announced last week that Franken will be the keynote speaker at his annual steak fry in September. I can't wait.

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CA-10: I Received the Endorsement of the SEIU CA State Council

Yesterday I was excited to announce that the SEIU California State Council has endorsed me in my race to represent California's 10th Congressional District, a Northern California district encompassing parts of Contra Costa, Solano, Alameda, and Sacramento counties. With 700,000 members, SEIU is the largest labor union in California, and their ranks include a broad cross-section of working Californians, including social workers, nurses, classroom aides, security officers, college professors, homecare workers, janitors, and more.

Why I'm motivated to lead on single-payer health care, the Employee Free Choice Act, and green-collar jobs over the flip...

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Corporate Hypocrisy on Bargaining Highlights Need for Employee Free Choice

The misleading attacks by Big Business on the Employee Free Choice Act now are aimed at the provision that would guarantee that workers can get a fair first contract. Their scare tactics are not only misleading, they're hypocritical.

Right now, workers lack a legal means to ensure they get a fair first contract. Recent research shows that even after workers successfully win a union and the ability to bargain, they're too often blocked from getting a fair first contract. Fifty-two percent of workers don't have a contract a full year after the election, and 37 percent don't have a first contract two years after the election. For too many workers, the promise of the freedom to bargain is out of reach because the law doesn't offer them any help.

The Employee Free Choice Act provides a process to help first-time bargainers to reach an agreement, through mediation and, for issues the parties are unable to resolve on their own, arbitration. The reason we need first-contract arbitration is to create an incentive for companies to bargain voluntarily with their workers.

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Former NLRB Examiner: We Need Employee Free Choice

Ask Shannon Hilt, who's seen our broken system for forming unions firsthand, and she'll tell you that there's no question: Workers need the Employee Free Choice Act.

Hilt spent three years as a field examiner for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), overseeing the elections process and investigating unfair practices. She says the system we have now, one in which companies, not workers, have all the power, isn't free, it isn't fair and doesn't protect workers.

Writing in the Boulder, Colo., Daily Camera, Hilt explains how her years of experience as an NLRB field examiner have convinced her that we need fundamental labor law reform that gives workers, not their bosses, the ability to decide how they form a union and bargain.

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