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Claim your Basic Employee Rights, Issue #02
May 06, 2009


Employee Rights News You Can Use



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Date May 6, 2009

Issue #02



What is the Employee Free Choice Act

About a year ago while doing my normal research for my You Can Learn Basic Employee Rights website I found a link to something called the Employee Free Choice Act. Naturally being passionate about anything that helps employees I checked it out. The more I read the more excited I became! It was like a breath of fresh air, a ray of hope shining through the darkness! It's truly amazing that a year later most employees still don't have clue what the EFCA is.

What is the Employee Free Choice Act? It is legislation pending before Congress that would make it easier for employees in all sizes of companies to form, join or assist labor unions. Now, to some the mention of labor unions invokes images of greedy workers driving up the cost of everything. Labor unions have had their excesses just as employers have. But one thing is certain, you can't have employers without employees.

The most recent revelations of corporate greed and abuse have contributed mightily to the economic mess America now finds itself in. That will only get worse unless a number of checks and balances are brought into play. Unions when functioning as they should help to create a level playing field for employees.

The present way unions are formed involves a card system, where the employees sign blank cards from an existing union. When 30% of employees have signed the cards the company can step in and require employee to hold a secret vote or ballot on whether to form a union. This usually doesn't happen until about 60% of the ballots have been signed. If the majority of votes say yes to unionization and the employer calls for an election, the (NLRB) National Labor Relations Board certifies that majority as a bargaining unit to negotiate with the employer. This is normally called collective bargaining or the practice in which workers and company representatives meet to negotiate a new labor contract.

The EFCA would take away the employer's right to have a card signing process or have secret ballots. It would give the employees the right to choose a secret ballot election if less than the majority signed cards in favor of a union. Under the EFCA if over 50% of employees sign cards upfront they can unionize without the secret vote or ballot. This is the number one reason most corporations are rabidly opposed to the Employee Free Choice act. They want to be able to force a secret ballot even if a majority of employees have signed cards authorizing a representative to negotiate for them.

The following are statistics according to the AFL-CIO;

* Communities with strong unions have higher living standards for everybody

* Union members make 28% more than workers who don't have a union. That's almost $200 a week, or $10,000 a year!

* Union members are 52% more likely to have employer-provided health insurance, and the benefits and costs are better.

*77% of union members have defined-benefit pension plans through their jobs, compared with only 20% of workers who don't have unions.

The (AFL-CIO) American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations also says, "Sixty million people who don't have unions say they'd join one tomorrow, but too few will ever get the chance in our corporate dominated system." Employees who seek to unionize are typically harassed, intimidated, pressured and fired. Penalties on employers for this are weak and companies simply view it as the "cost of doing business".

Employers can control the union information and employee receives and can require you to attend anti-union meetings during work hours. They can even force you to have an intimidating one on one anti-union session with your supervisor. Hmmm....imagine the coincidence of this meeting being timed with your employee performance evaluation! Some companies will even close or threaten to close their business.

Government studies reveal that almost 30,000 employees had their rights violated in 2007. These were only the documented cases. These same studies also show that one in every four employers illegally fire employees. "Even when workers win their unions, many companies delay bargaining any way they can. According to a new study by MIT, 44% of workers who form a new union never reach a first contract.", says the AFL-CIO.

The EFCA would force companies to bargain in good faith in a timely manner through mediation and arbitration. Employers will not be able to "drag out" the process of employees forming unions, sometimes for years. The Employee Free Choice Act increases penalties for illegal firing of employees. Monetary penalties must be strong enough to change employer behavior, and not simply be treated as another cost of doing business.

* The EFCA would increase the monetary penalty for discrimination (including firing) against employees for union activities. Current law provides for the award only of back pay to victims of illegal discrimination, the Employee Free Choice Act provides for the award of three times the amount of back pay!

* These greater monetary penalties would only apply to discrimination that happens while organizing the union or during the time when employees are trying to bargain a first contract.

This writer believes in the Employee Free Choice Act as being a positive step in establishing a true partnership between employer and employee. I believe the EFCA will help to bring about greater accountability for both sides while fostering mutual trust and respect. I also believe the Employee Free Choice Act will bring to an end the concept of "At Will" employment, which has routinely been used as a weapon against certain groups in the workplace. You can read my article on this at;




Top Tips!



Did you know many companies actually allow themselves to be breeding grounds for violence?

Here are some red flags for the company you work for or want to work for;

Is there a record with local law enforcement of a history of violence?

What does your state's labor relations board have to say about the company's employment record?

For more specific workplace warning signs;


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Written by Yancey Thomas Jr.


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