WASHINGTON — Legislation that would facilitate unionization passed the House of Representatives last week but it faces uncertain prospects in the Senate and a promised presidential veto, according to our sister publication, Workforce Management.
The House approved the bill — titled the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) — 241-185 on March 1. Thirteen Republicans joined 228 Democrats in supporting the measure, which would permit a union to be formed if a majority of workers sign authorization cards.
Currently, a company can accept a so-called card-check election or force a secret-ballot vote supervised by the National Labor Relations Board.
The EFCA would also allow a company or a union to refer a first contract dispute to mediation after 90 days and to binding arbitration after 30 days of mediation. It would impose fines up to $20,000 on companies that discriminate against workers during organizing campaigns and force them to pay treble back wages.
The House defeated GOP amendments to allow employees to put themselves on union “do not call” lists and to mandate that elections occur only through secret balloting.
Advocates for the bill argue that it would allow employees to freely form unions without coercion from employers.
“It’s ending intimidation of hardworking Americans … when they simply say, ‘I want a union,’ ” Rep. George Miller, D-California and chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, said in a press briefing after the vote.
Opponents assert that the measure would subject workers to pressure from unions, who they say have championed the bill as a means to boost their declining numbers. The Textile Rental Services Association of America (TRSA), the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) and the National Restaurant Association (NRA) are among the groups fighting it.
The Bush administration formally announced that the president would veto the bill if it reached his desk.
“The administration opposes any effort to circumvent supervised elections and private balloting,” a policy statement says. “It is a fundamental tenet of democracy that individuals are able to vote their conscience, free from the threat of reprisal.”
The EFCA is one of several important topics on the agenda for TRSA’s March on Washington (with the American Reusable Textile Association) slated for May 7-8 in the nation’s capital. More information is available by calling TRSA at 877-770-9274.