Defeating the Employee Free Choice Act now before Congress is a top priority of area manufacturers, judging by attendance at a series of meetings last month in Grand Rapids and elsewhere in West Michigan.
The events drew scores of business owners and managers worried about the dangerous legislation, which would potentially eliminate secret ballots when employees are voting on whether to have union representation.
Although it appears Congress is unlikely to approve EFCA in its present form, Michigan manufacturers are remaining vigilant as changes are proposed and debated.
This is the fourth time Congress has tried to change the way employees decide about unionization. Under the pending legislation, in order to organize a workplace, a simple majority of workers would need to sign cards in favor of union representation. The new system would allow both union and employer to know how a worker voted, which could open up the process to coercion and intimidation of workers.
Union leadership seems to realize how radical it would be to kill the secret ballot. They may be willing to drop the provision in search of a compromise; however, we are standing on two sides of a very large chasm. Manufacturers are leery that any so-called compromise would be palatable.
Although streamlining the current process may have some benefits, any changes should create more balance among the interests of labor and management as well as the employees. There’s no reason to give unions even more ability to organize when, according to the National Labor Relations Board, they already win 61 percent of secret-ballot elections.
The present system, which provides for a secret ballot when enough workers sign cards seeking an election, allows workers time to carefully consider the union’s promises of job security, higher pay and additional benefits and to decide whether such promises are really within the union’s control. Workers need to weigh the possible gains against the additional cost of union dues.
What’s more, it appears EFCA supporters will continue to push for the binding arbitration provision included in the original bill. Under the legislation, if a worksite is unionized and the employer and bargaining unit don’t agree to terms in 90 days, the matter would go to binding arbitration. That would leave it to unaccountable government officials to impose wages, benefits and other terms and conditions of employment.
Even some union supporters have soured on binding arbitration, noting that workers could have a contract thrust upon them without their vote or consent.
West Michigan manufacturers have traditionally enjoyed relatively peaceful relations with their work forces. But if EFCA passes in any form, we believe that Michigan manufacturers and other large employers are likely first targets for new organizing drives. Our members, the state’s largest employers, continue to struggle after nearly a decade of economic challenges. Michigan companies don’t need another layer of cost to make their operations less competitive.
MMA is continuing to urge U.S. senators and representatives to vote “No” on EFCA. The protection of Michigan jobs and economies is at stake.
Chuck Hadden is president/CEO, Michigan Manufacturers Association.