By James R. Grosmann
James R. Grosmann is marketing director for the National Tooling & Machining Association
Legislation is being debated in Congress that has a great name but dire, long-term effects on U.S. manufacturing.
The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) is an attempt to pay Big Labor back for its support in the last elections. However, it has nothing to do with free choice. It has to do with the government giving labor an unfair advantage to organize companies.
This legislation isn’t about Democrat or Republican politics, liberal or conservative leanings, or, even, pro-union or anti-union sentiments. It’s about right and wrong.
Under this legislation, workers lose their right to vote for or against a union through secret balloting.
Under current law, if a union wants to organize a company it has to gain enough signatures to require a vote — 30 percent of the employees at a company have to sign cards to trigger an election. Then, there is a specified period of time that is allowed for the pros and cons to be discussed. Then the election is held within that specified time.
Each worker votes, in secret, for or against.
Under the new law, union organizers only have to get 51 percent of the workers at a company to sign a card to ask for a union. There is no limit on how long the union could take to get signatures on those cards. In addition, this process opens the potential for coercion at home, while shopping or any other way for the union to get the signatures. A part of the legislation includes increased fines if management interferes with the process, but no penalties for unions if they are caught interfering with the lawful process.
Once the 51 percent threshold is met, the union is formed.
There is no subsequent vote.
That leaves open the potential for 49 percent of the employees at a company left unaware that the organizing process is — or was — going on.
Besides that feature of this new legislation, it also includes a provision for “binding arbitration.”
Once the union is authorized — and remember that means having signed cards from 51 percent of a company’s employees — the company has 120 days to agree to a contract.
If a contract is not completed in that allotted time, a federal arbitrator is called in to mandate contract terms.
That puts the corporate decisions on pay, fringe benefits and work rules into the hands of the arbitrator who, in effect, will govern the company. In addition, the legislation allows no appeal, no way out. The secret ballot is a center piece for American citizens. It is the way we elect our leaders.
Why should unions that aren’t elected be given more power?
Union membership today stands at less than 12 percent of the U.S. workforce.
Why should that small portion of the workforce be given power over the rest?
We can stop this legislation if we stand together.
U.S. small manufacturers have the numbers on our side but we need to act.
The NTMA and PMA are working with other trade groups to get votes in the Senate to block this legislation but these trade associations need industry support.
How do you help?
Contact the organization that fits your needs and join this fight immediately.
Elected officials understand numbers, and the more voices we put together on this issue, the better are our chances of succeeding.
If the industry isn’t willing to stand up for itself now, then when is it?
The “One Voice” coalition has created a website — www.metalworkingadvocate.org — on which you can see a video that explains the effects of the Employee Free Choice Act.
You can contact the NTMA to join this fight on-line at www.ntma.org or by telephone at 800-248-6862.