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Feb 2007
07
February 07, 2007

Employee Free Choice Act Reintroduced in House of Representatives

On February 5, 2007, Representative George Miller (D-CA) introduced the Employee Free Choice Act (H.R. 800). This bill would amend the National Labor Relations Act to make it significantly easier for employees to gain representation by labor organizations by effectively eliminating the right to a secret ballot election. The Bill provides for four primary changes to the NLRA:

  • Upon a showing that 50% of the employees in an appropriate unit for bargaining have signed valid authorizations designating a labor union as their bargaining representative the union would be certified as the employee's representative without a secret ballot election;

     
  • If after certification, the parties are unable to come to terms on a first contract within 90 days, the parties would be required upon the request of either party to enter into mediation with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in an effort to bring the parties to a first contract. If, within 30 days of the request for mediation a first contract is not reached, either party could request arbitration and an arbitration panel would render a decision settling the contract for the parties which would be binding for a period of two years.

     
  • If an employer commits an unfair labor practice between the date of certification and the signing of a first contract, the employee would be entitled to an award of triple back pay.

     
  • Finally, the bill provides for civil penalties not to exceed $20,000 for each violation of the Act during the period between the certification of the bargaining representative and the date of the first collective bargaining agreement.

The measure has 230 co-sponsors, more than a majority of the House, and is set for hearing by the Housing Education and Labor Committee's Sub-Committee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions on February 8, 2007. It is widely believed that a Senate version of the Bill will be introduced within the next month.

This bill has been introduced in previous sessions of Congress and last year it generated a high level of sponsorship. With Democrats in control of both Houses of Congress, the likelihood of passage has increased. Bill watchers assume that President Bush would veto the bill. A Democratic President may not.

Should this Bill become law, it will fundamentally change the rules on unionization that have been in effect since the passage of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935. While there is no immediate prospect of enactment, we think it important to keep an eye on this Bill given its potential impact. Warner Norcross & Judd LLP will be monitoring this Bill and we will update you as the process continues.

Should you wish to contact your Representative regarding H.R. 800 or any other matter, you can do so by going to http://www.house.gov.
 

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