The backbone of sustainable social and economic development in any nation is highly dependent on respect of fair and just employee engagement practices. This is because; such practices are instrumental in ensuring the realization of economic independence for the individual family units of the community. It is due to this reason that the American nation has been in the forefront in enacting and enforcing employee friendly labor laws.
Among these numerous laws is the proposed Employee Free Choice Act, which seeks to amend the National Labor Relations Act to implement a more efficient system for protecting employees’ right to engage in collective bargaining through unions (Sachs, 2010). The Employee Free Choice Act provides for three main changes to the National Labor Relations Act. First, it allows for the certification of unions based on collecting signatures from majority employees (Cunningham & Schnake, 2009).
The other key provision is that the law will dictate for entering into a collective agreement between the union and the employer in not more than 120 days after recognition of the union (Cunningham & Schnake, 2009). Lastly, the law will impose stiffer penalties for anti-union practices by employers (Cunningham & Schnake, 2009). However, the Act has received critics that it could serve to compromise the rights of employees to voluntarily participate in unions. This paper seeks to identify the rationale, weaknesses, and strengths of the proposed Employee Free Choice Act as well as giving recommendations on the way forward.
Rationale of the Employee Free Choice Act The purpose of the proposed Employee Free Choice Act is to make three key amendments to the National Labor Relations Act. In its section 2, the Act recommends for the nullification of extra secret ballot voting by employees for employers to recognize unions. According to the provisions of the current labor relations law, employer can call for a secret ballot to qualify that majority of the employees are in support of having a union representation.
However, this will be changed by the proposed law, which will only require majority of employees to sign cards in support of union representation (Twomey, 2009). Another amendment is in section three, which seeks to facilitate initial collective bargaining agreements between employer and the union (Cunningham & Schnake, 2009). The Act allows the union to demand a collective agreement with the employer within ten days of its certification. To enforce efficient collective agreement, the Act calls for the dispute to be taken for mediation by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service if no agreement are signed within 90 days.
The FMCS has only 30 days to influence an agreement, failure to which the dispute is referred for arbitration (Sachs, 2010). The resolution decided by the arbitration will be legally binding for two years but the parties are allowed to extend time limits through a consulted agreement. Therefore, the proposed Employee Free Choice Act will serve to mitigate the common collective agreement delays caused by anti-union practices by companies. The third amendment is on improving the provisions of the law to enforce the right of employees to engage in union representation (Cunningham & Schnake, 2009).
Section 4 of the proposed law gives the National Labor Relations Board legal authority to take legal measures against employers who negate the right by employees to organize unions. In particular, the law allows for such injunctions against employers upon qualification that the employer prohibited or discharged an employee after seeking for union representation (Craver, 2009). Just to be appreciated is the fact that the current law does not provide for injunctions against employers.
The proposed law has provided for fines of up to $20,000 on employers for violating employee rights in organizing and participating in union representation (Cunningham & Schnake, 2009). Strengths of the Act The proposed Employee Free Choice Act finds its importance in protecting the right of employees to form, join and participate in a union (Sachs, 2010). According to the existing labor law provisions in the National Labor Relations Act, unless an employer voluntarily agreed to allow its worker to unionize, at least 30 percent of employees had to sign a valid authorization card (Sachs, 2010).
In addition, upon demand by the employer, the National Labor Relations Board could engage them in a secret ballot to qualify by majority vote whether they wanted union representation. Such a secret ballot provision remained subject to the employer’s decision even when majority employees had signed the authorization card to unionize. Such are seen by many as an effort by companies to compromise their right to form union, a factor that the new proposed law could sufficiently resolve.
Another claim by proponents of the proposed law is that it prohibits employers from anti-union practices (Twomey, 2009). Available report evidence indicates that the current process of unionizing is marked with numerous threats and discriminatory practices by employers against their employees. A substantial number of employees have reported of discharge threats by their employers if they participated in a union strike. Other reports even indicate that some employee right activists have been fired by companies in a move to mitigate future union representation in the organization (Twomey, 2009).
Just to be appreciated is the fact that such anti-union practices are no less than negating the ability of collective bargaining by employees to ensure fair and just working conditions. Nevertheless, with the proposed law providing for injunctions by the National Labor Relations Board against discriminative employer practices, the process of collective bargaining could be made quite effective (Sachs, 2010). The act has provided for heavy fines against such practices by employers.
According to many supporters of the bill, this is the only sustainable way of ensuring that employees get a fair and just share of the economic advantage they bring to organizations. Indeed, this equitable economic sharing is crucial in dictating the economic independence of employees and their families; the true definition of a sustainable social and economic development in any nation. Thus, the provisions of the proposed law could, no doubt, promote economic growth fairness through shared prosperity (Bolt, Keenan, & Mack, 2009).
Just to be emphasized here is the fact that the economic prosperity of businesses has middle class employees, though poorly paid, as the key driving force. In addition, the practice of collective bargaining is no doubt found to greatly influence the social and economic status of employees. Claims from supporters of the proposed law have indicated that workers who enjoy union representation gain the competitive advantage of earning an estimated 30 percent above non-unionized workers (Cunningham, & Schnake, 2009).
Still claimed by proponents is that unions are quite influential in promoting the employment rights of minorities in the community such as women and small ethnic groups employees. Therefore, streamlining the formation and participation of employees in collective bargaining is perceived a crucial tool for mitigating discriminative employment practices by American companies. Other benefits, which will come with the enactment of the proposed Employee Free Choice Act are health care cover, job security, and guaranteed pension schemes which come with unionization (Craver, 2009).
Available statistics indicate that unionized employee have a 63 percent chances of getting health insurance cover from their employers (Craver, 2009). True to the word, unionized employees find their competitive advantage of standing a higher chance of gaining guaranteed retirement pension benefits. Such are quite important in promoting the economic sufficiency of employees at their old ages. Another commonly asserted benefit is the fact that by guaranteed union rights, employees will have job security.
Available information indicates that unionized employees are 77 percent probable of getting short term benefits (Craver, 2009). Such his further strengthened by the advantage of having collective agreement job protection rights. Weaknesses of the Act Despite the numerous benefits that the proposed Employee Free Choice Act will bring to employees, it has received various critics. First, the proposed law allows using authorization card signing by majority employees to qualify organization of a union by employees (Bolt, Keen, & Mack, 2009).
This provision is cited as a potential threat to the privacy and confidentiality rights of employees. Being an open form of authorization to organize unions, employees could be subject to peer pressure influence as well as harassment by fellow employees. It is worth noting that the right to choice and freedom of expression are regarded as fundamental in our civil rights bill. Unlike the proposed Employee Free Choice Act, the current law allows employees to engage in a secret ballot voting that should be confidential (Sachs, 2010).
Based on this reasoning, this provision of majority authorization for union formation through card signing contradicts the essence of the law as seeking to protect the right to free choice by employees. Engaging in a contract dictates for a mutual agreement between the parties considered. This is why the process of organizing an employee union should involve consultations between the employer and employees. Nevertheless, the proposed Employee Free Choice Act allows employees to organize a union without giving employers the chance to argue for or against such (Twomey, 2009).
According to the bill, employers are legally bound against any attempt to bar their employees from engaging in union activities. Such are closely attributed with potential employee-employer conflicts, a factor, which sufficiently threatens the sustainable development of the actual business investments as it gives unfair negotiation advantage against the employer. Another weakness found in the proposed Employee Free Choice Act is its failure to impose penalties against union abusive practices (Sachs, 2010).
The sole purpose of having a union is to fight for the rights of the employees in an organization. According to some economic analysts, unions are mainly overwhelmed by the quest to ensure high wages and good working conditions for its members. Such have been evidently cited as a potential threat not only to the hiring ability of the organization but also a threat to its sustainable economic development. The current laws provides for injunctions by the National Labor Relations Board against unfair practices by employee unions (Cunningham, & Schnake, 2009).
However, according to the provisions of section three in the proposed Employee Free Choice Act, such injunctions are only imposed against employers rather than on both. Just to be appreciated is the fact that employers who engage in anti-union practices against their employees are subject to a legal fine of up to $20,000 (Cunningham, & Schnake, 2009). This is quite unfair as it fails to appreciate that the unions a collective bargaining tool for employees are subject to abuse of power. According to the training standards for union organizers, the union does not serve to force workers demands to the employers.
Instead, they are supposed to bring back and influence employees in considering the issue raised by the employer during the first dispute meeting with the union representatives. However, the proposed law will unfairly enhance the power of the union to force collective agreements on employers (Sachs, 2010). In addition, the Employee Free Choice Act is blamed for forcing faulty and legally binding arbitrations (Cunningham, & Schnake, 2009). According to the law, failure by the employer and the union to sign a collective agreement within 120 days forces for a compulsory arbitration of the dispute.
In addition to this provision, the law will dictate a validity of two years for the arbitration decision. Opponents of the law have asserted that such a provision will be forcing the private sector into the problem of unreliable government arbitrators. In support of this is the dispute resolution crisis that is commonly evident in the public sector. It is worth noting that, with a binding arbitration, the employers and employees will be bound to live wit the consequences of the decision regardless of its acceptability.
Therefore, the proposed law might take the right of union and employees to engage in free and fair collective agreement negotiations by calling for compulsory arbitration. Recommendations Given the eminent civil and labor rights shortcomings on the proposed Employee Free Choice Act, the local human resource group recommends the following amendments to the bill: • The provisions of section 2 (a) on certification of the proposed bill should be amended to reflect the constitutional rights of the employees to privacy and confidentiality (Sachs, 2010).
For now, this section dictates for recognition and certification of union representation based on majority signing of authorization cards. Since these cards are not secretive, the law could open a loophole by harassment and intimidation of employees for their right to choice whether or not to accept union representation. Therefore, imposing the option for confidential secret ballot voting could serve in mitigating discriminative practices against employees either by employer or other union members. • Another important amendment is on the provision on compulsory arbitration found in section 3.
This provision is found to compromise accountability and fairness in the process of signing a collective agreement (Cunningham, & Schnake, 2009). Unlike the provisions calling for using of government arbitrators, the law should be changed to allow for democratic choice of the arbitrator between the employer and the union. Such could be quite influential in enhancing fairness and accountability of the arbitrators and thus the impact of their decision to the disputing parties. • Thirdly, the proposed law should appreciate that, unions, just like employers are subject to unfair practices (Cunningham, & Schnake, 2009).
To mitigate this, section 4 (b) of the bill should be amended to impose penalties against abuse by union organizers. Such could enhance fairness between employers and unions in the fight for collective agreements. Conclusion It is clear that the proposed Employee Free Choice Act seeks to ensure economic prosperity of middle class workers in American through giving them a fair share of their contribution in developing the economy of the nation. However, the law compromises the right to privacy by not allowing for secret ballot voting by employees to qualify their desire to have union representation.
It also calls for unfairness by not imposing injunctions against the union. Such should be given consideration if true fairness and justice is to be realized in the process of resolving employer-union disputes. References Bolt, B. , Keenan, M. , & Mack, C. (2009). Challenging Recent Pro-labor Executive Orders and the Employee Free Choice Act. Labor law Journal. Retrieved May 25, 2010, from http://findarticles. com/p/articles/mi_hb5923/is_200912/ai_n49419731/ Craver, C. (2009). How to Make the Much-Needed Employee Free Choice Act Politically Acceptable.
Labor Law Journal, 60, 21-37. Cunningham, D. , & Schnake, M. (2009). The Proposed Employee Free Choice Act: Implications in the Workplace. Journal of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues, 12, 13-46. Sachs, B. (2010). Enabling Employee Choice: A Structural Approach to the Rules of Union Organizing. Retrieved May 25, 2010, from http://www. law. harvard. edu/programs/lwp/people/staffPapers/sachs/Sachs%20Enabling%20Employee%20Choice%202010. pdf\ Twomey, D. (2009). The Employee Free Choice Act: Congress, Where Do We Go From Here? Labor Law Journal, 60, 32-51.