PI Original Adam Doster Thursday April 9th, 2009, 6:46pm

The Trib's Terrible EFCA Editorial

While certainly more conservative than we prefer, the Tribune's
editorials are generally innocuous and entertaining reads. Sometimes,
they even raise a few good points. But every so often, the editorial
board pens a piece so misleading that it necessitates a stern rebuttal...

While certainly more conservative than we prefer, the Tribune's editorials are generally innocuous and entertaining reads. Sometimes, they even raise a few good points. But every so often, the editorial board pens a piece so misleading that it necessitates a stern rebuttal. Their diatribe praising the apparent stalling of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) this morning is one of those pieces.

Describing it as "a job-loss bill" that "perverts the notion that you have the right to protect the secrecy of a vote you cast," the paper lays out the following critique:

The bill would essentially strip workers of the right to decide by a secret ballot if they want to have union representation. It would trigger union certification once a majority of employees checked a form saying they wanted to create a bargaining unit. The fear: that union organizers would pressure workers to make a very public declaration through the card check, whether or not they truly wanted a union.

If the company couldn't negotiate contract terms in 120 days with the new union, mandatory arbitration would kick in. That requirement would eliminate incentives to negotiate in good faith during the 120-day period and could impose terms that put an impossibly high cost burden on the company.

Where to begin ...

First, it's patently incorrect to suggest that EFCA would "strip workers" of a secret ballot. This is a deceptive argument that we've rebutted repeatedly. Both forms of unionization are currently allowed under federal labor law and would be preserved under EFCA. What the bill does is give workers the "choice," rather than their employer. Simple as that.

Second, the paper takes a cue from the Heritage Foundation by blasting the bill's 120-day binding arbitration clause, suggesting that unions will wait for a government arbitrator to hand down a contract that ostensibly burdens employers instead of negotiating. Let's table the suggestion that an arbitrator would always come to a decision that benefits the union. (There is no evidence to suggest that's true.) At a more basic level, the Tribune ignores the entire purpose of the arbitration clause. Currently, employers commonly refuse to negotiate in good faith, choosing rather to stall, intimidate, and delay until a certification claim can be thrown out. Because the National Labor Relations Board (NRLB) is incapable of forcing a company to come to an agreement, employers purposefully wait until workers lose the collective bargaining rights they legally approved. 

The paper also asserts that under current law, "labor and management have an opportunity to campaign before the balloting."  This type of equivalency between union elections and federal elections is common among EFCA critics.  Thankfully, American Rights at Work put together this handy chart pointing out the differences:

It's also important to note that, in the run-up to union elections, employers regularly violate labor law by firing union advocates. According to research by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, illegal firings have marred over 25 percent of NLRB-sponsored elections since 2007, reaching 30 percent of elections in 2007. And the penalties are so low that employers make a rational choice to do so, a point the Trib acknowledges itself at the end of the editorial.

Sure, Chicago's largest daily is all for labor law reform, including giving union reps adequate access to workers during campaigns and finding a way to resolve unreasonable delays in union certification elections. But their arguments against EFCA as currently written are way off the mark.

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