The list of opponents to the Employee Fair Choice Act (EFCA) is a long who’s who of business in the United States, including the Chamber of Commerce, nationally known corporations like Home Depot and Walmart, and most notably for those in the food service industry, the National Restaurant Association (NRA).
What is EFCA? It’s a law that would allow employees to form a union at a place of business if a majority signed a card voting for unionization.
Current legislation requires that a secret ballot administered by the company must result in a majority vote for unionization.
Many small businesses would remain unaffected by the new legislation, since the minimum requirement for unionization is a business with $500,000 in gross annual revenue or at least 3 non-supervisory employees.
What’s the big deal? Well, both sides claim that coercion is the problem.
Business owners, including many in the restaurant industry, represented by the NRA, claim that employees will be coerced into signing card checks for unionization by union activists, especially since the card signing occurs in public.
Union supporters say the coercion that goes on currently under the secret ballot procedure is the real inequity in the system.
They say businesses routinely intimidate and even fire employees that push for unionization leading up to a secret ballot vote, and even though these practices are illegal, the penalties are not very harsh and are not regularly enforced.
Needless to say, Democrats support this legislation and Republicans oppose it. President Obama spoke in favor of this bill on the Senate floor last year and its passage was a routine campaign promise last fall.
EFCA already passed the House of Representatives last year on a strict party line vote but could not attain cloture in the Senate.
With Democrats ever closer to the magic number of 60 in the Senate, the Employee Fair Choice Act is looking more and more like it will become law, probably within the first six months of this year.
The NRA’s opposition to this bill is explained as a defense of worker’s rights to a secret ballot. They also say that EFCA will hurt small businesses.
With the passion on both sides running high, it’s hard to say who will benefit the most from this bill. Both proponents and opponents claim to be defending workers’ rights.
In the food service industry, the leading association has taken a tough stand against this bill, but that doesn’t mean everyone agrees with the NRA.
The reality is that most restaurants will remain unaffected by this legislation because of the minimum requirements for unionization. The ones most at risk, like national chains, are the most vocal opponents driving NRA action.
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