Category Archives: Labor Laws/Legislation

The Employee Free Choice Act: A Skeptical View and Alternative

Source: Roy Adams, Labor Studies Journal, Winter 2007, Volume 31, no. 4

The AFL-CIO, along with its ally American Rights at Work, has invested a great deal of time, energy, and money in promoting passage of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). Those of us who believe in collective representation hope that this initiative will fulfill the hopes of its promoters and produce a major advance in the number of workers with a collective voice at work. However, with Republicans in continuing control of Congress and the White House, the odds against passage if the Act would seem to be high. However, there are reasons to believe that, even if the Act should pass, the results will, unfortunately, fall short of expectations.

Among the key elements of the Free Choice Act that are intended to spark new organizing are card check certification, first contract arbitration, and stiffer penalties for employers who offend the law. Since employers commonly commit unfair labor practices during certification election campaigns and stonewall during the negotiation of first contracts, American unionists believe that the establishment of procedures designed to counter those practices will significantly improve the labor movement’s organizing prospects.

Striker Replacement: A Human Rights Perspective

Source: Lance Compa, Perspectives on Work, Summer 2006, Volume 10, no. 1

United States labor law on workers’ right to strike meets international human rights standards—up to a point. The law does not ban strikes in the private sector. Unlike many countries that nominally allow strikes but create onerous procedural obstacles (Mexico is a prime example), the United States, aside from modest notice requirements, lets workers decide to strike. In a handful of states, public-sector workers can strike.

So far, so good. But beyond this point, U.S. labor law and practice deviate from international standards. In the public sector, most strikes are prohibited even with no threat to public health or safety (the main proviso developed by the International Labor Organization). In the private sector, employers’ power to permanently replace workers who exercise the right to strike effectively nullifies that right.

The Campaign to Save Labor’s ‘Only True Weapon’

Source: John Logan, Perspectives on Work, Summer 2006, Volume 10, no. 1

In 1990, the AFL-CIO started a campaign to reform the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to ban permanent striker replacements, hoping to set the stage for more comprehensive revision of the NLRA. Ultimately, however, the campaign served only to illustrate organized labor’s inability to win labor law reform over the opposition of the business community. Campaigns such as that for striker replacement legislation—in which the AFL-CIO spent tens of millions of dollars on a Washington-based campaign focused on a handful of “swing” legislators and ended up with absolutely nothing to show for it—are precisely the type of campaigns that the dissident Change to Win unions have criticized as a waste of union finances that would be better spent on organizing.