This section of Discover The Networks examines the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), a measure that would deprive workers of the right to vote for or against the unionization of their workforce by means of a secret ballot.
Under current law, there are three methods by which a union can gain National Labor Relations Board certification as the exclusive representative of employees in a particular workplace or industry: (a) a secret ballot; (b) a signature drive; or (c) a procedure commonly known as a “card check.” Card-check certification means that a majority of a company's workers have signed union-authorization cards. Union organizers typically approach employees on a one-to-one basis and encourage them to sign such a card. It is a process that is often beset by coercion, lies (e.g., falsely telling a worker that many of his colleagues have already signed cards of their own), intimidation, and harassment. If an employer suspects that union organizers are using coercive or deceptive methods on his workers, he has the legal right to demand that government-supervised secret-ballot elections supplant the card-check procedure. The EFCA would eliminate this option for employers.
The EFCA also contains a provision stipulating that if an employer and a union cannot agree on an initial contract within 90 days, either party may ask the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to intercede in the negotiations. If a deal then cannot be reached within the first 30 days of federal mediation, the federal government will assign an arbitrator to hammer out an agreement. The arbitrator’s decision would be non-negotiable and binding for two years. Workers would have no opportunity to either ratify or reject the agreement, by secret ballot or otherwise. Journalist Claire Berlinski notes that because negotiations for new contracts almost always take more than 120 days, the EFCA would effectively empower the federal government to dictate the terms of many private-sector contracts.
David Green, chairman of the Democratic Socialists of America's Detroit chapter, explains how EFCA could help advance the agendas of his organization:
"Our goal as socialists is to abolish private ownership of the means of production. Our immediate task is to limit the capitalist class’s prerogatives in the workplace.... We can accomplish this ... most of all by increasing the union movement’s power... The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) provides an excellent organizing tool through which we can pursue our socialist strategy while simultaneously engaging the broader electorate on an issue of economic populism."