The truth about EFCA

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.

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4 Responses to The truth about EFCA

  1. Lee Waters says:

    Just a short note to say I disagree (I know this comes as a shock). I’m not lying, I’ve read the law and I understand unions. I would also like to point to an example of intimidation that has already taken place in Albion, IN. Initially, the union was voted in based on the card-check type system. When there was a re-vote based on the intimidation and a secret ballot was used, they employees voted against it.

    I say this as a former member of a union. The union reps I knew spent more time on their union related activities than on the actual job they were hired to do. The union cared more about increasing it’s power (and those of the leaders) than about the workers it supposedly represented. I can certainly attest to certain pressures (isolation, retribution, peer-type pressure and otherwise) being brought to bear in order to get you to vote the way the leadership wanted. The secret ballot was absolutely essential.

    This will only intensify with regard to the decision on whether to unionize or not. This is not remedied by the assertion that a group of employees can demand a secret ballot if they want one. I can see Vinny standing over your shoulder saying “you don’t want no stinking secret ballot do you? What? You ain’t scared are ya?” The point is that those that may want a secret ballot will be reluctant to identify themselves as wanting one. The anti-intimdation provisions also ring hollow for the same reason. You have to identify yourself. Keep the secret ballot period and no problem.

  2. sethkahn says:

    No dispute, Lee, that there have been acts of intimidation by union members. And yes, there have been ugly incidents of union leadership going awry.

    However, you’re doing the same thing that almost everybody arguing against EFCA does. In your post, you start by arguing about the card-checks, but then move into arguing about why unions are bad–which has nothing to do with card-check elections, since nobody is allowed to do them now.

    Moreover, although I don’t want to go tit-for-tat, there are also plenty of examples of management intimidation of workers who wanted to unionize. So, if we can both toss around anecdotal evidence that both sides do bad things, where does that get us?

    Finally, you’re not addressing one of the major points of my argument. Going public by signing a card actually protects you from recrimination, just like a whistleblower who goes public is much less likely to get fired than somebody who complains directly to the boss they’re blowing the whistle on.

    Nice stereotype, by the way. Vinny? C’mon, man…The Mafia got out the union business a long time ago. Not enough money in it.

  3. Lee Waters says:

    I simply don’t agree. My point is that many will not get to the point of being comfortable enough to fill out the card in front of those pushing for the union. As an attorney, I know how hard it can be for people to come forward. I’ve also seen enough whistleblower cases to know they are the exception rather than the rule and that recrimination can and does occur. The remedy for such comes much later, if it does at all. To prevent this, I stand firm for the secret ballot. Simple enough.

    By the way, in certain areas the unions do have thug enforcers. Whether they are mafia, I have no idea. My wife’s family has a couple(one if which is named Vinny by the way) in Chicago. They work for the electricians union. I used only my personal example.

  4. sethkahn says:

    Lee, like I said… I know there are union thugs out there. There are management thugs out there. The real spirit of EFCA, despite your claims that it’s really about cementing union power, is to protect workers from management intimidation. You might dispute the method, but it’s unreasonable for you to assert that it’s just a naked power grab.

    With that said, it seems more likely that EFCA isn’t going to get through the Senate. If you’re actually interested in protecting workers’ rights and your central problem really is with the card-checks, how do you propose to protect workers from management thugs, now that you’ve protected them from union thugs?

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