Q. The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) has been headline news as of late. What is this proposed legislation?
A. After much speculation, the EFCA was introduced in the 111th Congress on March 10. The bills introduced in both the House of Representatives (H.R. 1409) and the Senate (S. 560) are identical to last year’s measure, which passed the House but stalled in the Senate due to a filibuster on the motion to debate the bill on the Senate floor.
This year’s bills were introduced with fewer original co-sponsors amid increasing concerns regarding the economic impact of “card check” union certification and compulsory arbitration of first contracts.
The EFCA would establish a “card check” procedure for union representation when a majority of the workers sign union authorization cards. Under the legislation, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) must certify a union based on valid signed union authorization cards from 50% plus one of the workers in an appropriate bargaining unit, and may not schedule an NLRB-supervised secret-ballot election.
Second, the proposed law would mandate a first-contract arbitration when labor- negotiations stall. When the parties fail to reach agreement after 120 days of collective bargaining and mediation, a federally appointed arbitrator would be selected to write the terms and conditions of employment. The resulting agreement would be in force for two years.
Finally, the legislation imposes penalties for employer unfair labor practice conduct during union organizing or while bargaining for an initial contract.
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