The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Labor ‘Free Choiceâ€TM Bill Stares Down Bush Veto*

by Shreema Mehta

*A correction was appended to this news report after initial publication.

Feb. 21, 2007 – Vice President Dick Cheney recently promised that President Bush would veto pending legislation that union activists say would greatly improve workers’ ability to organize.

If made into law, the Employee Free Choice Act would ease the formation of unions by allowing workers to choose labor representative through a "card-check" election, in which a majority of the workers simply authorize a union to represent them by signing up. The bill also moves to better enforce workplace violations such as discrimination or harassment of workers seeking labor representation.

Under the current system, an employer can refuse to recognize a card-check election and instead force workers to conduct a vote by secret ballot overseen by the National Labor Relations Board.

As previously reported by The NewStandard, the card-check process typically takes less time than NLRB elections and are less costly, since a third-party arbitrator just has to verify that a majority of workers signed union cards. Secret-ballot elections can take months to set up.

The Employee Free Choice Act is under consideration in the US House of Representatives. Speaking to members of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), Cheney announced that Bush would veto the bill if it reaches his desk, reflecting bosses’ claims that only secret-ballot elections are fair and protect workers from intimidation by labor organizers.

"The legislation would eliminate employees' freedom to choose whether union membership is right for them and their families in private," said Jason Straczewski, the NAM's director of human resources policy, in a press statement. "The NAM objects to any proposal that increases the potential for coercion and intimidation in the workplace."

But the AFL-CIO said secret-ballot elections have the opposite effect. Employers often hold mandatory staff meetings warning against unions. Union organizers are usually not allowed to enter the workplace and talk to the employees they seek to represent during working hours.

"By the time employees get to vote, the environment has been so poisoned that free and fair choice isn't an option," wrote the group on its website. "No employee has free choice after being browbeaten by a supervisor to oppose the union or being told they may lose their job and livelihood if workers vote for the union."

The AFL-CIO said that last weekend, union members in 100 cities lobbied Congress members to pass the Act.


Major Change:

The original version of this article indicated that employers review workers' signatures in a "card-check election." In fact, as the article now reflects, a third-party arbitrator carries out this task.

 | Change Posted February 21, 2007 at 17:26 PM EST

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Shreema Mehta is a staff journalist.

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