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House Begins Debate of a Labor Bill Destined For Veto

March 1, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

The House of Representative is beginning debate on the second piece of labor-related legislation considered this week in Congres, despite presidential veto threats on both. The bill being debated in the House is H.R.800, the Employee Free Choice Act.

The bill would remove the requirement that union elections be held by a secret ballot vote, a voting process similar to the one we use when voting for elected officials.

Under the current rules, once 30% of a group of workers sign an authorization card, they then go to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to apply to have a secret ballot vote held in order to approve or reject the union. For the union to be formed, 50%+1 of the workers would have to vote in favor of the union during the secret ballot election.

The Employee Free Choice Act would change this process by allowing a union to be formed simply through the signing of the authorization cards that are now used to get support for an official secret ballot election. A union would be formed once a majority of workers have signed the authorization cards.

This bill is expected to garner a strict party-line vote, Democrats in favor, Republicans against.

The Red State blog provides this argument for why Democrats are pushing for this bill that sacrifices the “democratic principles and the sanctity of the secret ballot:”

>…in this last election cycle, organized labor gave nearly $60 million in hard dollar PAC contributions to Democrat candidates – with tens of millions more for “get out the vote” efforts piled on top. It is time to pay that investment back. Unfortunately, workers pay the ultimate price.

Opponents of the bill have retitled it, the “Employee Intimidation Act,” citing that:

>Evidence suggests that under the so-called “card check” agreement, employees are likely to be coerced or misled, often being falsely told the forms are non-binding “statements of interest,” requests for an election, or even benefit forms or administrative paperwork.

Proponents of the bill make similar claims of employee intimidation in the union forming process, but they see the intimidation coming from employers rather than union organizers:

>The Center for Economic and Policy Research recently estimated that employers fire one in five workers who actively advocate for a union. A December 2005 study by American Rights at Work found that 49 percent of employers studied had threatened to close or relocate all or part of the business if workers elected to form a union. In fact, in 2005 alone, over 30,000 workers received back pay from employers that illegally fired or otherwise discriminated against them for their union activities.

Essentially, what is at stake in this bill is which group will have more power of influence over union elections — union organizers or employers. Because the Democratic majority is so strong in the House, party-line issues like this are almost certain to be approved. But in the Senate, where the Democratic majority is slight, the vote on this bill could go either way. But, regardless of how this bill fares in Congress, its ultimate veto is certain where Republicans still have a stronghold in the government: the presidency.

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