In yesterday’s the Grand Rapids Press, there was lengthy article that looked at attitudes in West Michigan towards the Employee Free Choice Act. At the center of the article was a debate over the Employee Free Choice Act, legislation that was first proposed in 2007 to reform labor laws in the United States.
According to the AFL-CIO, the Act would make it easier for workers to form unions by:
- Guaranteeing that if a majority of workers wants a union, they can have one, allowing them to form unions by signing cards authorizing union representation
- Providing mediation and arbitration for first contract disputes;
- Establishing stronger penalties for violation of employee rights when workers seek to form a union and during first contract negotiations.
Labor unions charge that the current system for forming unions is broken. They argue that the National Labor Relations Boards (NLRB) election process is so long and so tilted in favor of employers that it encourages anti-union campaigns.
Not surprisingly, the Employee Free Choice Act has been opposed by a variety of corporations, business owners, and politicians who argue that the law would give an “unfair” advantage to unions. They claim that the measure is anti-democratic because it would get rid of the “secret ballot.” Those opposing the law want to keep in place the current NLRB elections process because it guarantees them an advantage.
Employee Free Choice Act through the Lens of the Grand Rapids Press
A few short days after the Grand Rapids Press ran an article reporting that unionized workers earn more in West Michigan, the Press looked at the debate in an article titled “Companies, unions prepare for a faceoff over Employee Free Choice Act.” For the most part, the article is a fair look at the issue–talking to a variety of lawyers, union organizers, employers, and politicians. However, it is worth noting that earlier this month, the Press came out strongly against the Employee Free Choice Act in an editorial.
Local Politicians Weigh In
The Grand Rapids Press article also looks at what two local politicians–Republican Vern Ehlers and Pete Hoekstra–have to say about the measure. In the past, both have opposed the measure. Ehlers is quoted more, saying that–without any kind of proof–that the measure “will probably hurt West Michigan.” He says that although he has opposed the measure, he thinks it will pass the House of Representatives. He anticipates a debate the Senate, but expects it will ultimately pass.
Still, he hopes that workers might think twice before forming unions:
“When people are lucky to have a job, maybe they’ll be worried about signing something like that.”
As always, these kind of comments are a good opportunity to look at how politicians have voted on related issues in the past. While the Grand Rapids Press fails to do that, the AFL-CIO’s legislative scorecard reports that Ehlers has a poor record of supporting pro-union policies.
He has also received substantial financial support over the years from groups representing business interests.