EFCA Passes the House,
Is Introduced in Senate

Myke Reid,
Legislative & Political Department Director

(This article appeared in the May/June 2007 issue of The American Postal Worker.)

Despite a fierce lobbying campaign by big business and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the House of Representatives passed the Employee Free Choice Act (H.R. 800), on March 1, by a vote of 241-185.

The proposals would level the playing field by protecting workers and organizers from harassment.

Almost every Democrat voted for the bill, with 228 in favor and only two against it: Dan Boren (OK) and Gene Taylor (MS). Thirteen Republicans voted for the bill: Mike Ferguson (NJ), Vito Fossella (NY), Peter King (NY), Steve LaTourette (OH), Frank LoBiondo (NJ), John McHugh (NY), Thaddeus McCotter (MI), Tim Murphy (PA), James Saxton (NJ), Chris Shays (CT), Chris Smith (NJ), James Walsh (NY), and Don Young (AK). Not voting were Republicans Barbara Cubin (WY), Jo Ann Davis (VA), Doc Hastings (WA), Chip Pickering (MS), and Ted Poe (TX); and Democrats Jay Inslee (WA), Bill Jefferson (LA), and Carolyn Maloney (NY). As you can see, the House voted pretty much along party lines.

EFCA would protect employees’ free choice to form unions. Similar legislation has been stalled for years because the GOP congressional leadership simply refused to allow votes on it. After last November’s elections, however, Democrats designated it one of their top priorities.(APWU President William Burrus declared it the union’s top legislative priority.)

What EFCA Means

Should EFCA become law, it would mean that unions would be certified and recognized by employers as soon as a majority of workers sign cards declaring an interest in having union representation. Following certification, employers would be required to bargain with the union over wages, benefits, and working conditions. The bill would also protect union supporters from retaliatory measures by employers.

In the weeks leading up to the House vote, big business and the Chamber of Commerce launched radio and TV ads attacking EFCA supporters in Congress to pressure them to vote against the bill. Those targeted and hit hardest by the ads included freshman House members who won their seats by a narrow margin.

We feel that the attacks totally misrepresented the pending legislation: Most of the ads claimed that employers were attempting to protect their employees from “bullying” by unions that would not represent workers’ interests. They even claimed that if this legislation became law, American workers would have fewer rights than workers in Mexico!

The Essence

The essence of the dispute is that the new law would eliminate an option employers routinely use to undermine workers’ efforts to form unions: the employers’ opportunity to demand a “secret ballot,” even after a majority has signed cards certifying that they want union representation. Virtually all employers who oppose unionization use this tactic, and it is during the period between the certification-card collection and secret balloting that many employers intimidate workers and harass union organizers. EFCA would level the playing field by protecting workers and organizers from harassment.

In the U.S. Senate, on March 29, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D) and 46 co-sponsors introduced S. 1041, which mirrors H.R. 800. The bill’s fate is uncertain, with 60 senators needed to support an effort to bring the measure to the floor for a vote. Right now, it appears we are just short of that number. In addition, the White House has already indicated that if the House and Senate pass the bill, President Bush will veto it.

Congressional votes on EFCA certainly reveal the true friends of labor unions.

Retiree Health Plan Premiums

Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) has once again introduced a bill (H.R. 1110) that would allow federal civilian and military retirees to pay their health insurance premiums on a pre-tax basis. If enacted, the legislation could save individual retirees hundreds of dollars annually. Similar legislation was introduced in the last Congress but it did not reach the floor for a vote in either the House or Senate. At press-time, the House bill had 28 cosponsors. It will need substantially more, and we are hopeful that number will grow.

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