Pending Regulation Increases Unionization Activity

November 21, 2008

Employers wishing to remain union-free need to be especially alert considering the likely passage of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). EFCA would amend the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to make it easier for unions to be recognized in the workplace.

Currently, the normal process for unions becoming the bargaining representative in a nonunionized workplace is to get at least 30% of the workers to sign a petition indicating they want to vote on the union, which is then followed by a secret ballot election. The EFCA would eliminate the secret ballot election and allow unions to be recognized if a majority (51% or more) of the employees sign union authorization cards.

Worse still, the EFCA would require employers to begin negotiating the first union contract within 10 days. Also, if a contract is not agreed to within 120 days, the EFCA requires that a federal arbitrator will impose the terms of a contract for a two-year period. That would mean that the employer's wage rates, health insurance, and other benefits would be in the hands of an arbitrator with no vested interest in the success of the company.

The EFCA passed the House of Representatives in 2007 but stalled in the Senate. Given the recent election results, the bill is likely to pass both houses of the next Congress. President-elect Obama co-sponsored the EFCA and has promised to sign the Act into law as President.

Why should I be concerned if the bill has not yet been signed into law?

Because, once signed, the union authorization cards are good for one year. Unions are expected to begin card signing campaigns now in anticipation of the EFCA becoming law in early 2009. Some employers may then discover that a majority of their employees have signed authorization cards and they have only 10 days to prepare for bargaining with the union.

Five things to do now...

? Reaffirm your organization's position with respect to unions and your firm belief that an outside third party is not necessary for effective employee relations and successful business operations.

? Inform your employees about the EFCA and the implications of signing a union authorization card.

? Train supervisors to recognize the warning signs of union organization, and what they should and should not do if there is an active union campaign.
? Evaluate your organization's vulnerability for a union; consider conducting an employee opinion survey to measure the pulse of the workforce.

? If not already in place, develop an in-house open-door policy or complaint procedure to allow employees the opportunity to have their concerns addressed.

SESCO consultants are available to assist you with these measures, including union avoidance training for supervisors, administering opinion surveys, and developing complaint procedures.

Tell others ...

Given the critical implications of the Employee Free Choice Act for employers, we encourage you to share this information with your business associates who may not be aware of this legislation.