Senate Democrats

Summary Of The Employment Free Choice Act

The Senate is preparing to take up the Employee Free Choice Act with a possible vote on Thursday. Click on read more for a smmary of the legislation that will allow workers to choose a union free from employer coercion. 

Majority Sign-Up—Employees Choose A Union When A Majority of Workers Sign Cards Endorsing the Union

Problem:  Union elections are often the focus of employer intimidation and coercion—employers illegally fire employees for union activity in more than one-quarter of all organizing efforts.   In 2005, over 30,000 workers were discriminated against—losing wages or even their jobs—for exercising their freedom to associate.

Solution:  The bill provides that workers can choose a union when a majority of them sign valid cards stating they want a union as their bargaining representative.  Existing law allows for majority sign-up, but only at the employer’s discretion.  The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) will determine the validity of the cards.

Reaching First Contract Through Mediation and Arbitration

Problem: 34 percent of union victories—more than one-third of hard-won elections—did not result in a contract for workers.  This renders employee choice meaningless.

Solution:  The bill provides that if the parties don’t reach a contract within 90 days, either one can seek mediation from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS).  If there is no agreement after 30 days of mediation, the dispute will go to arbitration, the result of which will be binding on the parties for two years.  

Strengthens Remedies for Employer Coercion When Employees are Trying to Organize or get a First Contract

Problem:  Employers fire pro-union workers in 25% of organizing drives. But remedies for this coercion are inadequate. An employee must often spend years to prove her case—and then she is only eligible to receive back pay and reinstatement to her job.

 Solution:

  • Injunctions:  The NLRB must go to court to get an order stopping an employer that is firing or discriminating against workers based on their union activity during an organizing or first contract drive. 
  • Treble Backpay. An employer that discriminates against a worker during an organizing campaign or first contract drive must pay three times back pay.
  • Civil Penalties: Imposes civil fines up to $20,000 per violation if an employer willfully or repeatedly violates workers’ rights during an organizing campaign or first contract drive.
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