Labor Days

Business may be down for some law firm practice groups. But labor law is a gold mine these days. It's all because of fear generated by legislation that hasn't even passed Congress: the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which would make it much easier for unions to organize and then to get a contract favorable to them.

EFCA has bounced around Congress since 2003, always blocked by Republicans. But President Obama made its passage a campaign priority, appointed as Labor Secretary Rep. Hilda Solis, a staunch EFCA supporter, and has Democrats in control of both houses of Congress. So many people on both sides of the union-management divide think it's only a matter of time--quite possibly a very short time--until EFCA becomes law, although the country's economic crisis might impact that.

Coercion Concerns

Unions say they need EFCA, claiming that employers use the typical 42-day campaign period preceding secret ballot elections to intimidate employees from voting for unionization. But employers say it would not be fair to make employees decide based only on what they hear from the union, which could conduct its card-check campaign offsite, without the employer's knowledge. "By the time the employer finds out, it could be game over," Keselenko says.

Playing Offense

Of course, a Republican filibuster could stymie passage of EFCA, or it could be watered down in negotiations prior to passage. If it does pass, court challenges are a virtual certainty. But regardless of EFCA's fate, Keselenko notes that Obama has three vacancies to fill on the five-member National Labor Relations Board. The new board could shorten the timetable for union elections and make other decisions favorable to unions.

Senior Editor

Mary Swanton

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