Minority Labor Unions Are Coming

Based on the make-up of Congress, it appears that EFCA is going to pass and will become law sometime in 2009.  If for some reason – a reason I cannot fathom – EFCA does not become law, it does not mean that employers are in the clear from forced unionization.


Towards the end of 2007 there were more Republicans in office and it was apparent that EFCA would succumb to the Republican’s filibuster and not pass.  At that time, organized labor began an initiative of alternative ways of organizing workers – through minority unions.


Steelworkers and auto workers were first minority unions at several companies and then gained contracts that helped persuade other workers to organize as part of a company-wide union.  This is analogous to a union being in one location or one store of a company and then spreading to the other locations until the whole company is unionized.


Seven unions (USW, UAW, IBEW, CWA, UE, and the CAN) petitioned the NLRB to require private-sector employers to negotiate with union members even though the union had the support of only a minority of the employees.  Clearly, this was a last-ditch effort to do an end-around to the failing EFCA legislation.


The unions wanted the NLRB to adopt the following rule despite knowing that it would not likely pass under the current Bush NLRB:


Pursuant to Section 7, 8(a)(1) and 8(a)(5) of the Act, in workplaces where employees are not currently represented by a certified or recognized Section 9(a) majority/exclusive collective-bargaining representative in an appropriate bargaining unit, the employer, upon request, has a duty to bargain collectively with a labor organization that represents less than an employee-majority with regard to the employees who are its members, but not for other employees.


According to the chief organizer for the steelworkers, “Our hope is that there will be a more pro-worker administration in place” and under that administration (appointed by a Democratic President), it will pass.


The Obama NLRB will likely ensure that minority unions have the opportunity to exist and thrive.  Coupling minority unions with EFCA and the anticipated “union of one” law, every single employee will be eligible to be represented by his or her own union of choice even though they are employed by the same company and perform the same job.


One Response

  1. First, I think the blog is great. It has good information, albeit from a mostly slanted (defense/chamber of commerce) perspective, on the topic of coming employment and labor changes. These are interesting topics and you provoke thought and provide information to those interested. I will bookmark the blog and return. May even subscribe.

    I am a bit of a mut on the topic of ECFA. Coming from the south, I have been born and raised to oppose unions, and tend to have a bias against them. None of my family ever benefited from collective bargaining, so I am prone to persuasion on the topic. However, I represent employees in employment matters (as well as several small businesses.) and see the failure of the present individual employment rights models of providing employees with fair employment laws. In SC, there is virtually no protection against bad faith termination, and I hear every day stories how employers abuse their power, just because they can.

    My preference (bias) is for a model of employee rights that recognizes the same level of contractual obligations as courts recognize in EVERY OTHER CLASS OF CONTRACT. It would start with an obligation of good faith. However, implying an employment at will term which guts any obligation of good faith is judicial activism at its worse: It is telling how it is universally found to be desirable by those who declare opposition to every form of judicial activism.

    But, in addition to discharge, there is very little in place to protect employees from arbitrary and material changes in the terms and conditions of employment. Unilateral changes in pay, job duties, breaks, and imposition of non-competes are damn near standard operating practice for too many employers.

    So, what to do? Collective bargaining? Perhaps. And, since the NLRA currently protects collective action in non-union context, I am interested in the ability of two or more (non-majorities) to find protection through collective action (bargaining?) where courts have denied it to individuals. And, other than unions, employees have not organized lobby, so it is just natural that the legislative response to employer lobbying, is for collective bargaining rights. And unions, like every other business, wants competitive advantages that advance their bottom line.

    Where does this leave me on the ECFA? A bit indifferent. The cries of employers against a democratic response to the judicial activism bought and paid for by the Chamber of Commerces falls on deaf ears in my case. Perhaps a bit of a choice between two evils, but when dealing with evil, I prefer a balance of power. ECFA may restore some balance.

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