Thursday, May 7, 2009
The political machinations surrounding the proposed Employee Free Choice Act keep getting more and more interesting. Given the amount of news being released from key senators, it looks like EFCA is getting to the legislative front burner. Steven Greenhouse at the New York Times has one of the more thorough takes on EFCA's current prospects. As is no surprise, we've hit compromise stage, with proposals for early voting (in the same vein as a related proposal by Benjamin Sachs (Harvard)) or quicker elections recently coming to the fore. According to Greenhouse:
To win more support and prevent any intimidation, Senate Democrats are considering a proposal pushed by Senator Dianne Feinstein, the California Democrat. In a procedure similar to the early voting that precedes elections in many states, workers could sign cards and mail them to the National Labor Relations Board. If a majority mailed cards, the board would order the employer to recognize the union, as it now does when a majority of workers vote for a union through secret ballots. . . .
Tom Harkin of Iowa, the bill’s chief sponsor in the Senate with Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, has held intense talks in recent days with several Democrats, including Ms. Feinstein and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who recently left the Republican Party. Mr. Harkin said, “There is one thing that won’t work, and that is the status quo.” He added, “Another key point is not to have these long drawn out elections that become an all-out war.” . . .
Several union leaders said they might support changes that would call for holding secret-ballot elections within a week or two of the labor board ordering an election, thereby preventing long, acrimonious campaigns. . . . [Union leaders also] said they would accept legislation with fast elections only if it included arbitration and tougher penalties for companies that break labor laws. . . .
Randel K. Johnson, the United States Chamber of Commerce’s vice president for labor affairs, criticized quick elections. . . . But Mr. Harkin said, “If the Chamber of Commerce says they’re opposed to everything, then they’re not going to be a player.” He cited a proposal by Mr. Specter that might help preserve the arbitration provisions. Under it, the arbitrator would choose between offers by an employer and by a union. “The last, best offer idea might have legs,” Mr. Harkin said.
Given the number of proposals circulating, it's hard to predict at this point what, if anything, may end up passing. I find Harkin's final thought about an arbitrator picking among proposals to be particularly interesting. The Postal Service has long used this form of arbitration, although it's not always pretty. I'm not sure if that's the best way to go across the board, however, as the Postal Service has a long relationship with its unions which may make "pick a proposal" arbitration more feasible than it would be in other workplaces. [Apparently I was wrong about the Postal Service, which uses typical interest arbitration, with three member panels (one union, one employer, one neutral). My question about the feasibility of "pick a proposal" arbitration still stands, however.]
Hat Tip: Benjamin Sachs, Justin Keith, and Dennis Walsh