“Today, Rep. George Miller and Sen. Tom Harkin introduced the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that would make it easier for workers to bargain with their employers for better wages and benefits.”
This is how Change to Win, the labor umbrella organization, frames the debate over EFCA. But it is also important to note that the bill would make it a lot harder for workers to say “no” to a particular union – as many do – when its organizers confront them and demand their public declarations of support.
And in the event that a union thus wins the right to represent workers, EFCA would also force employers and employees into government-mandated arbitration within 120 days if no agreement can be reached through good-faith negotiations. The arbitration provision obviously has consequences for employers, but what about employees? James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation brings up this oft-neglected aspect of EFCA in a paper published today:
Under current law, workers can vote down a contract they do not support. Workers also have the right to honor a strike or to refrain from striking. All of these rights give workers some degree of autonomy and control over the union and their workplace.
With imposed contracts in place, however, these rights disappear. EFCA does not allow workers to terminate the binding arbitration process. No matter how long arbitration drags on, the workers will remain stuck with it. And an arbitrator’s word will be final, so a vote to reject the contract is out of the question. With a government-imposed contract, workers would lose all say in the workplace. They could not even ask their supervisors for a raise for good performance beyond what the contract specified. EFCA deprives workers of all choice regarding employment issues.
It is an important part of the free-market system that workers negotiate their pay, whether through union representatives or individually. But through forced arbitration, EFCA can force workers (and employers) into a binding contract for two years, regardless of whether the contract will work for the firm or is acceptable to the workers. Such quick and binding arbitration is a large and new government intrusion into the workplace, and employers are not the only ones with something on the line.