Employee Free Choice—or forced choice—Act?

The 4th Workforce Freedom Airlift 2010 Takeoff, a gathering of roughly 250 delegates from eight states organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, was the largest ever due to continuing economic uncertainty — combined with the fact that small business and community leaders across the nation believe the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), or any related compromise, would push the economy rapidly in the wrong direction.

The delegations’ purpose was to show that the business community is committed to continuing to support worker’s rights to privacy and an intimidation-free workplace and employer’s rights to negotiate employee contracts free from one-sided penalties.

According to the U.S. Chamber, EFCA — or the Employee “Forced” Choice Act — constitutes a “power grab by unions that would stack the deck in favor of organized labor.” It amends the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) by effectively taking away private ballots, mandating binding arbitration without giving employers sufficient time to negotiate and increasing new penalties that apply only to employers. EFCA would ensure that unions would have no incentive to bargain in good faith and many incentives to make over-the-top demands, knowing that they would be the starting point in arbitration hearings.

The Colorado delegation included executives in the banking, hotel, transportation, mining, manufacturing, legal, hospitality, retail, environmental, development and business services industries. In our meetings with Sens. Udall and Bennet, we quickly learned that they weren’t convinced that EFCA would see the light of day this session. The delegation noted that clearly this is a high priority for unions; recently, Vice President Biden said the Democrats were committed to passing EFCA sooner rather than later.

The U.S. Chamber believes that organized labor will push hard to bring EFCA, or a compromise, to vote to get people on the record as for or against it before the mid-term elections this fall. When pressed, neither Colorado senator would support the current EFCA bill, but they were non-committal regarding a compromise.

When the delegation questioned why supporters believed that EFCA was needed today, both noted that the lack of consistency of enforcement of past labor laws has contributed to the issue. Our response was that if it is enforcement of current law that is the problem, instead of creating additional mandates for employers and employees, why not just enforce the current law? We didn’t receive opposition to this suggestion. Senator Bennet was clearly concerned by the lack of focus on what he believes are our most important issues: education, job development and paying down the national debt.

It was clear from our conversations that true gridlock has taken over Washington. There was clear frustration by both senators with the inability to move forward on anything of meaning without stifling partisan politics. It has become the rule instead of the exception.

The U.S. Chamber’s recent Colorado-specific poll showed how unpopular the proposed “compromises” regarding EFCA in the Senate are within the state. The simple fact is that there is no compromise on EFCA that will not harm employers’ ability to compete and create jobs, as well as infringe upon the rights of both workers and employers.

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