LEGISLATIVE ALERT! — SENATOR SCHUMER INTRODUCES BILL EASING UNIONS’ ABILITY TO ORGANIZE EMPLOYEES AND COMPELLING COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AGREEMENTS
On July 31, 2003, Senator Charles Schumer of New York introduced a bill called the Employee Right to Choose Act, S. 1513. The legislation, which is now before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, makes it easier for unions to organize employees and more difficult for employers to decline to enter into harmful labor contracts. Senator Schumer maintains that “with the economy in the tank and incomes of average Americans remaining stagnant, workers need unions like never before.”
If enacted into law, the Employee Right to Choose Act would deprive employers of the right to demand a National Labor Relations Board union representation election before recognizing a union as the bargaining representative of some or all of its non-management employees. The Act would require the Board to certify a petitioning union as the bargaining representative of a unit of employees deemed appropriate by the Board if a majority of the employees have signed authorizations designating the union as its representative and provided that no union has previously been designated by 30 percent or more of the employees. Thus, upon a simple “card check”, the National Labor Relations Board could designate a union as the lawful representative of workers upon a majority showing of support and without conducting an election.
Even more drastic, the Employee Right to Choose Act would require an employer to begin collective bargaining not later than ten (10) days after receiving a written request for collective bargaining from a newly certified union. If after one-hundred eighty (180) days the parties have failed to reach an agreement, either party could notify the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (“FMCS”) of the existence of a dispute and request mediation. If the dispute is not resolved after thirty (30) days from the request for mediation, or a time period agreed upon by the parties, FMCS would be required to refer the dispute to an arbitration board which will render a decision settling the dispute and imposing a contract on the parties for a period of 2 years, unless amended during such period by written consent of the parties.
The bill is expected to attract strong resistance from the Republican majorities in Congress and the Bush administration. However, Senator Schumer plans to make workers’ rights a central issue in the 2004 presidential campaign. Employers are encouraged to contact their Senators and voice their concern over this bill.