Again and again (and again and again) and again…
People who oppose unions and pro-labor forces argue against the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act on the grounds that EFCA is “undemocratic.” Their contention, in simplest terms, is that EFCA erases secret ballots from the unionizing process, thus allowing union organizers to intimidate workers into supporting unionizing efforts.
This claim, and all its variations, is simply wrong. I won’t go so far as to say the people who make it are lying, although some of them clearly are.
What’s wrong with it?
1. EFCA does NOT eliminate secret ballots. It offers an alternative to secret ballots. Workers who prefer a secret ballot process can have one. If a group of workers indicate they’d rather have a secret ballot, so be it. What’s hard about that? Nothing, except that it inconveniences anti-labor people who want to pretend like they care about democracy.
2. EFCA does NOT make workers more vulnerable to intimidation. Under the current system, when management gets wind of an organizing effort, they can harass and intimidate workers with impunity. Managers can fire people, change their hours and benefits, redesign job descriptions and expectations… In some cases (Starbucks and Walmart are notorious for this), companies have SHUT DOWN stores and fired EVERYBODY because the organizing effort was going too well.
EFCA would make workers safer from this kind of intimidation in two ways. The obvious one is that, along with allowing card-checks as an alternative secret ballots, it immensely strengthens anti-intimidation enforcement. If nothing else, putting an end to the horrific intimidation that happens under the current system is utterly and completely essential to workplace democracy.
The less obvious reason is that it’s actually easier for management to intimidate and harass workers when they can be shadowy about it. Because the current system doesn’t leave much of a paper trail–even when workers cast secret ballots because they’re anonymous–it’s difficult to prove that management is harassing individuals because of their union support. The card-check, by making union support visible and public, would actually protect workers because any harassment of a card-signer would obviously be a result of their support.
I have yet to see a single union member or organizer oppose EFCA. Given how fractious the US Labor movement is in this era, you’d expect some opposition within the movement if anybody actually thought it was a bad idea.
Instead, the only opposition comes from groups who either are managers, or are bought and sold by managers. Every argument I’ve seen against EFCA begins with the claim that the new system would be undemocratic, but quickly shifts into an argument about why unions are bad. All of which adds up to one simple fact–the opposition to EFCA isn’t about democracy. It’s about stopping unions from forming. If the people who make these arguments actually cared about workers and working conditions, they’d AT LEAST support the part of the law that strengthens anti-intimidation laws. But I haven’t seen a single one of them discuss that part of the bill either. They hide behind an empty notion of democracy in order to fight against unionization.
I’ve changed my mind. They are lying. Every last one of them. Perhaps some people simply don’t understand either the law or anything about unions, but that’s no excuse.
Contact your legislators and demand their vote for EFCA.