Unions bigs, Congress target small business

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Seeking additional sources of union dues to reinvest in politics

A proposed piece of federal legislation poses a serious threat to small businesses if it is passed, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce official claims.

The Employee Free Choice Act is proposed legislation which aims to amend the National Labor Relations Act to establish a system to enable employees to form, join or assist labor organizations to provide for mandatory injunctions for unfair labor practices during organizing efforts and for other purposes.

"The Employee Free Choice Act would change the way unions target small businesses," said Marc Freedman, director of labor law policy for the U.S. chamber.

Freedman says currently unions don't normally attempt to organize companies with less than 50 employees.

"EFCA changes that and they would become targets of union organizers," Freedman told members of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce Thursday at The Greenbrier during a human resources symposium, part of the second day of the chamber's three-day annual meeting and business summit.

Freedman said the proposed legislation is known in the business world as "the card check forced unionism bill."

Under current labor law, the National Labor Relations Board will certify a union as the exclusive representative of employees if it is elected by either a majority signature drive, the card check process or by secret ballot NLRB election, which is held if more than 30 percent of employees in a bargaining unit sign statements asking for representation by a union.

Under the EFCA, an employer would no longer have the opportunity to demand a secret ballot election when a majority of employees have signed union cards and there is no evidence of illegal coercion. In addition, if the union and employer cannot agree upon the terms of a first collective bargaining contract within 90 days, either party can request federal mediation, which could lead to binding arbitration if an agreement still cannot be reached after an additional 30 days.

"This would also hurt employers," Freedman said. "Unions would have everything to gain and nothing to lose."

"If the bill passes, unions get much greater strength and employers, especially small businesses, could possibly lose control of their businesses before they even know the threat exists," Freedman added.

Freedman says one union president estimated at least 1.5 million more members would be added to union roles almost immediately following passage of the bill.

"This bill also calls for more penalties on employers and none on unions," he said.

The act would provide for liquidated damages of two times back pay if employers were found to have unlawfully terminated pro-union employees.

According to the AFL-CIO Web site, the bill would enable working people to bargain for better wages, benefits and working conditions by restoring workers' freedom to choose for themselves whether to join a union. They claim anti-union forces oppose the bill because they do not want workers to have the freedom to choose for themselves whether to bargain through unions for better wages, benefits and working conditions.

"Employees are on an uneven playing field from the first moment they begin exploring whether they want to form a union, and the will of the majority often is crushed by brutal management tactics," the AFL-CIO Web site stated.

On March 1, 2007, the House of Representatives passed the measure 241-185. The Senate on June 26, 2007, voted 51-48 on a motion to invoke cloture and proceed to consider the bill. Because 60 votes were needed to invoke cloture, the bill is unlikely to pass during the 110th Congress, Freedman said.

"That could change with this election, so employers need to be aware of this potentially harmful piece of legislation," he said.


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