Monday, May 11, 2009

Employers told to prepare for Free Choice law

As union leaders press for passage of the federal Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), business leaders are opposing the change while positioning themselves to head off the perceived increased likelihood of unionization if the measure becomes law.

Labor leaders recently organized a demonstration by dozens of workers outside the Commerce Building in South Bend while inside the Chamber of Commerce, lawyers gave a workshop on the act to more than 30 business leaders.

A similar bill failed in 2007, but both labor and employers believe that a new administration and changes in the composition of the Senate increase the likelihood that some version will become law.

Major provisions of the bill would:

Allow unions to organize with a “card check” system, replacing the common secret ballot approach. A union would form when a majority of workers sign a legal document, similar to a power of attorney, indicating they want the union.

Set time limits on the process of contract negotiations that could trigger federal mediation or binding arbitration if the management and union cannot reach agreement on items in the contract.

Significantly increase the penalties on companies that violate the National Labor Relations Act.

Much of the national attention on the proposal focuses on the elimination of secret-ballot votes for forming unions – in conversation, business leaders refer to EFCA as “the card check legislation.”

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