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Argument: EFCA raises penalties on employers violating unionization laws

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Supporting quotations

"US: Support the Employee Free Choice Act". Human Rights Watch. 27 Feb. 2007 - "Ending Toothless Enforcement. Remedies available for violating US laws protecting workers’ right to organize have little deterrent effect and are considered by employers a small price to pay for a union-free workplace. For especially egregious conduct, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) can seek an injunction, but it rarely does so. In most cases, the NLRB simply orders the offending employer to restore the status quo and post a notice that it will not repeat the unlawful conduct. In one case we investigated, the NLRB ordered an employer to reinstate a worker, with back pay, fired five years earlier for supporting an organizing drive. After subtracting the worker’s interim earnings over five years, the total penalty was only $1,305, plus interest, hardly a significant disincentive to flouting US labor law.

The Employee Free Choice Act would strengthen the penalties for anti-union discrimination committed during an organizing drive or first-contract negotiation by increasing the amount due victimized workers; providing for civil fines of up to $20,000 per violation for willful or repeated illegal acts; and requiring the NLRB to seek injunctive relief if it reasonably believes that an employer “significantly interferes with, restrains, or coerces employees” in the exercise of their rights, as is already required in similar cases against unions. These reforms would not change the basic rules governing workers’ right to organize in the United States. Instead, they would give them teeth, making US employers think twice before violating existing US laws protecting freedom of association."

Employer Free Choice Act. American Rights at Work - "Strengthen penalties against employers who break the law. Too many unscrupulous employers get away with breaking labor laws because the current penalties are too weak. The Employee Free Choice Act would increase penalties against employers who illegally fire or retaliate against pro-union workers during an organizing campaign or an effort to obtain a first contract. Read more about strengthened penalties."

"US: Support the Employee Free Choice Act". Human Rights Watch. 27 Feb. 2007 - "It would strengthen penalties against companies that break the law during organizing campaigns and a first contract."

"The Employee Free Choice Act Meaningful. Remedies Against Employer Coercion". AFL-CIO - Current National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) remedies are not sufficient to deter such abuses or to erase their impact on employee free choice. The NLRA’s penalties against illegal firing of union supporters are so minimal that employers treat them as a minor cost of doing business. Unlike other federal statutes prohibiting unfair treatment of workers by their employers, the NLRA does not provide compensatory or punitive damages or damages for pain and suffering for violations of NLRA rights. Employers who illegally fire workers for union activity are only required to pay back wages—minus what the worker earned in the meantime. In 2002, the average back pay award for an employee fired for union activity was a mere $2,750. For many violations of the NLRA, there are no monetary consequences for the employer whatsoever. An employer that violates the NLRA by threatening to fire union supporters or to close a plant if the employees vote for a union does not incur any fines or monetary penalties, even though such threats can have as devastating an effect as an actual discharge in making employees afraid to join the union. The only remedy for such a violation is an order requiring the employer to post a notice in the workplace promising not to violate the NLRA again, long after the incident occurred.

Because of the complex process for litigating cases before the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the courts, an employer that illegally fires a worker for union activity can typically avoid for nearly three years an enforceable order to pay back wages and offering the worker reinstatement. In the interim, the firing serves as a chilling lesson to the employee’s co-workers that they too could lose their livelihoods if they support the union. The employer knows that by the time an order is issued, the organizing campaign will be long over and the worker in most cases will have gone on to other employment.

In fact, only one out of three workers who are illegally fired accepts an offer of reinstatement, and those who do are typically so scarred by their experiences that they do not resume union activities.

The Employee Free Choice Act imposes meaningful penalties for violating employees’ rights. Monetary penalties must be strong enough to change employer behavior so NLRA violations are not simply treated as a minor cost of doing business. The Employee Free Choice Act increases the damages to three times the amount of back pay an employer must pay to an employee who is illegally discharged or otherwise forced to suffer loss of pay or benefits on account of union activity during an organizing effort or during the period when employees are seeking a first contract.

To further deter illegal discharges and other unlawful conduct, the Employee Free Choice Act also provides for civil monetary fines of up to $20,000 for discharges and other significant violations of employee rights that occur during organizing efforts or during the period when employees are seeking to negotiate a first contract.

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