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Argument: Employee Free Choice Act protects unionizing workers from intimidation

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"US: Support the Employee Free Choice Act". Human Rights Watch. 27 Feb. 2007 - Human Rights Watch has found that anti-union discrimination is common during NLRB election campaigns. In one case, an employer illegally threatened to cut pay and benefits if workers chose to form a union and fired two key union supporters. A worker told Human Rights Watch that, as a result, “everybody is scared [to organize] now.” The Employee Free Choice Act would go a long way towards closing off this opportunity for employers to undermine workers’ right to organize.

Current US rules governing union election campaigns are unfairly slanted against union supporters and allow employers to use myriad tactics to prevent workers from freely choosing whether to organize. Employers are entitled to argue vigorously against union formation while denying union organizers and advocates a parallel opportunity to present their message. Employers can force workers to attend anti-union captive-audience meetings during work time while prohibiting union organizers from holding similar meetings. And employers can issue a steady anti-union drumbeat during the workday but ban union advocates from the workplace and even from distributing information on sidewalks and in parking areas on employer property.

The failure of US labor law to ensure free and fair union elections can be more fully understood by analogy to political elections. The goal in each case is to create an even playing field and guarantee that people can cast votes free from coercion. The one-sided anti-union campaigning that US labor laws allow during organizing drives would rightly be seen as a travesty of minimum standards of electoral fairness in a political contest where all sides must have “equal opportunity to convey their messages to the electorate” to ensure “[t]he fair and free atmosphere needed for effective political campaigning.” It should be understood as manifestly unfair in workplace elections, as well.

While the Employee Free Choice act would not address existing unbalanced rules on who can speak openly in the workplace about union formation, it would mitigate the rules’ negative impact on workers’ rights and help ensure that workers who wish to form unions can do so. Under current US labor law, employers can refuse to recognize a union and demand an NLRB election even when a majority of workers support union formation as demonstrated by signed worker authorizations—a “card check.”

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