Democratic senators finally dropped the controversial “card check” provision from the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) bill. As a reminder, unions demanded to replace secret ballot elections with “card check,” seeing the latter as an easier way to increase their membership numbers. This provision, if left in the bill, would have denied workers their privacy in union choice and would have made them more vulnerable to coercion and harassment. Dropping this provision represents a victory for workers, women and men alike. See Allison Kasic on Get the facts: Card Check for a more detailed account of the dangers this provision presented.
While we celebrate this victory of more free choice for employees, we should keep in mind that the battle over EFCA is not over yet. Binding arbitration is still in the bill. This provision means that if workers and management don’t come to a collective bargaining agreement within 90 days, the government steps in to act as an arbiter between the two parties with the power to essentially impose a contract on both. Such a forced contract could turn out very badly for workers and employers.
Currently workers vote to ratify on contracts that unions negotiate on their behalf. Under binding arbitration, workers could get stuck with an unfavorable contract, composed by a bureaucratic third party that has nothing at stake in the matter. Additionally, they may be forced to pay dues to a union that failed to represent their interests. Employers, in turn, may be confronted with terms that make it unsustainable for their business to operate. A business that is forced into bankruptcy surely won’t help workers. For more information and state examples of compulsory arbitration, see Shikha Dalmia’s opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal The ‘Free Choice’ Act and Binding Arbitration.