News & Events

Why it is called the Employee Free Choice Act

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
January 2009 Edition

What is the Employee Free Choice Act? Well, it is a piece of proposed legislation that would, in a nutshell, restore workers’ freedom to form unions and bargain without interference from management.

Specifically, the Employee Free Choice Act would:

  • Establish stronger penalties for violation of employee rights when workers seek to form a union and during first-contract negotiations.
  • Provide mediation and arbitration for first-contract disputes.
  • Allow employees to form unions by signing cards authorizing union representation.

But if you’ve recently seen the television commercials against the Employee Free Choice Act—the ones that stereotype union organizers as “mobsters”—then your impression could be that this legislation is bad for workers.

In fact, the opposite is true.

Why the Employee Free Choice Act? Why now?
In order to really understand the importance of Employee Free Choice Act, you should first ask yourself why so many employers are so willing to spend so much money to keep nurses from forming a union and negotiating a contract.

Typically most employers try to stay competitive with union wages and benefits in order to keep the “unionization possibility” out of the mix, so it’s not about the money.

What employers are really trying to avoid is sitting down at the table with their employees and negotiating over wages, hours and working conditions. They are willing to spend exorbitant amounts of money to keep you from forming a union because they don’t want to relinquish any power to “their” employees.

In the current environment of labor law, if a majority of employees sign union cards stating they want a union, they have to ask their employers to recognize what a majority of workers want. At this point, the employer decides if they will recognize the union or force the workers to have an election overseen by the National Labor Relations Board. The vast majority of employers choose the second option—even though it is more costly—because it gives the employer more opportunity to run a successful anti-union campaign.

Aiming for a balance in power
If the Employee Free Choice Act is enacted, then the employees decide if management will recognize the union when a majority of workers sign union authorization cards. This act will balance the scales of the employer/employee relationship.

In addition, the proposed legislation would strengthen penalties against offending employers and require mediation and arbitration to help parties reach a first contract in a reasonable period of time.

For more information on the Employee Free Choice Act, contact the MNA’s Division of Organizing at 781.830.5777.