On Tuesday June 26th, the U.S. Senate voted 51 – 48 for cloture (ending debate on a bill), on the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) effectively killing the bill. Had the EFCA become law it would have posed a serious threat to all non-union employers. Provisions of the EFCA would have eliminated secret ballot elections in favor of card checks to determine whether or not a union would represent employees. The card check provision was arguably the most recognized aspect of the bill but there were a number of other proposed changes to current Federal labor laws also at stake. All of these changes clearly favored labor unions at the expense of non-union employers and in the case of eliminating secret ballot elections, at the expense of employees. The radical nature of the bill called into question the likelihood of its passage from the beginning. However, the fact that the bill was only effectively stopped by a narrow vote in the Senate should serve as a wake-up call to any employer concerned with the prospect of dealing with an outside third party, economic strikes, compulsory union membership and other realities of unionization.
Almost immediately after the vote in the Senate various union websites and blogs discussed plans to renew a similar version of the bill sometime after the next Presidential election. Depending on the political makeup of Congress and the White House in the next couple of years, a bill similar to the EFCA has a strong possibility of becoming law. The amount of resources and funding that big labor is willing to commit to the passage of something like the EFCA is understandable. Unions would clearly benefit and have a clearer path to achieving their long established goal of increasing membership on a historical scale.
As for non-union employers the need for proactive steps is clearly evident. Instead of waiting to become the target of a union, non-union employers can take a number of steps to help insulate themselves in the event of a union organizing drive. These steps should be considered:
- Comprehensive labor relations training for all supervisors and managers
- Vulnerability assessments
- Employee issue identification
- Prepared response/action plan to counter organizing efforts