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The Corner

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Employee Free Choice Act and Joe the Plumber



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Proponents of the Employee Free Choice Act (“EFCA”) maintain that card check unionization will protect employees from the alleged employer coercion and intimidation that accompanies secret ballot election campaigns. This, say proponents, is why card check better protects an employee’s free choice than the present system of secret ballot elections supervised by the National Labor Relation Board.

Let’s examine that proposition using Joe the Plumber (not Joe Wurzelbacher. I don’t know where he stands on EFCA, although I have a hunch).

The Union targets Joe’s employer for unionization. There are 100 employees in the proposed bargaining unit, so under EFCA the union only needs to convince 51 of them to sign authorization cards for the union to be certified as the collective bargaining representative for all 100.

The Union leaders are pretty sophisticated at organizing. After all, it’s what they do. Pretty quickly they identify both the employees  most receptive to unionization as well as those most opposed. Joe falls into the latter group so the Union never even attempts to get him to sign a card. In fact, since most of the pro-union employees work a different shift, Joe’s not even aware a union drive is going on.

The Union gets 51 employees to sign cards and gets certified by the NLRB as the collective bargaining representative for all employees — including Joe, who had absolutely no say in whether he wanted a union.

The Union and Joe’s employer begin negotiations but can’t get an agreement within 120 days. Under EFCA, a government-appointed arbitrator then writes the “contract”. The arbitrator puts a union security and dues check-off clause in the “contract”, thereby requiring Joe’s employer to deduct $45 a month from Joe’s paycheck and remit the amount to the union. The arbitrator also orders Joe’s employer to pay a 5% wage increase — an amount that squeezes the employer’s margin. The employer considers lay offs to avoid losses. Joe is near the bottom of the seniority list.

Under EFCA, the arbitrator’s order is binding for two years. Joe and his co-workers can’t reject it. Joe’s company can’t reject it.

Let’s review: Joe had no choice in being represented by the union. He had no choice in paying union dues. He had no choice in accepting the arbitrator’s order that might lead to his lay-off.

Joe concludes that the correct title is the Employee No Choice Act.



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