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Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) as American as Apple Pie?

Columnist Stanley Turkel stakes out a pro Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) position. Here’s why he thinks this controversial legislation should pass.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009
Stanley Turkel
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For an opposing view of the Employee Free Choice Act, read Editor-in-Chief Glenn Haussman’s article here.

The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA): A Contrary View
Before you get lathered up and call me names, please read my view of the Employee Free Choice Act. Try to keep an open mind as you consider my arguments and conclusions.

First, the current recession has fallen hardest on workers who have lost their jobs with depression- like speed. These are the same workers who have dramatically increased their productivity and generated more wealth only to be rewarded with loss of jobs, falling wages, plummeting purchasing power, elimination of health-care benefits and cancellation of pensions. Meanwhile, corporate downsizing and offshoring are rampant, part-time work is the new norm and job-safety rules are being sacrificed as the recession deepens.

Second, opponents of the Employee Free Choice Act claim that it takes privacy, power and voice away from America’s working people by robbing them of their right to a private ballot in federally supervised elections when deciding whether or not to join a labor union. The truth is that there are two methods for organizing under EFCA rules:

  1. Majority sign-up: Under this method, workers sign valid forms indicating their preference for a union. EFCA would change existing law so that an employer must recognize its employees’ union when a majority of its workers has authorized union representation using majority sign-up.
  2. Secret ballot elections: Under the Employee Free Choice Act, workers are still free to organize using “secret ballot” elections.

Third, both majority sign-up and secret ballot elections have been in existence since 1935 but, under current law, employers can disregard the results of majority sign-up and force employees to use secret ballot elections. In fact, a company’s management can refuse to recognize a union even when 100% of its employers have signed authorization cards indicating that they want a union.

A 2006 poll of the general public by the Pew Research Center found that 68% of Americans believe that labor unions are necessary to protect working families. In that same year, a survey or workers by pollster Peter Hart indicated that as many as 60 million Americans would join a union tomorrow- if they could.

Fourth, in summary, here’s what the Employee Free Choice Act does:

  • It gives workers a choice between secret ballots and majority sign-up. Once a majority of workers make it clear that they want a union, they should get a union; employers should not be allowed to negate the process.
  • It strengthens penalties against employers who break the law. Too many unscrupulous employers get away with breaking labor laws because current penalties are too weak. EFCA would increase penalties against employers who illegally fire or retaliate against pro-union workers during an organizing campaign.
  • It allows employers or employees to request mediation if they’re unable to negotiate a first contract.

Fifth, what the Employee Free Choice Act does not do:

  • It makes no change to the current union election process. It amends the law about majority sign-up to put the choice of how to form a union in workers’ hands not their employers.
  • It does not create a “new approach” to forming unions. Majority sign-up has existed since 1935 and major corporations like AT&T recognize majority sign-up as a completely legitimate way to determine the will of its workforce.
  • It does not make workers more susceptible to coercion. Workers in secret ballot elections are twice as likely (46% vs. 23%) as those in majority sign-up campaigns to report that management coerced them to oppose a union. But only 4.6% of workers who signed a card with a union organizer- fewer than one in 20- reported that the presence of a union organizer made them feel pressured to sign the card.

Finally, across the country, there is broad support for EFCA. A Peter Hart poll released in January 2009 shows that 73% of the public supports it including nearly half of Republicans. This will be a major test for President Obama who pledged unequivocally last year that he would get EFCA passed.

The Employees Free Choice Act sounds fair because it is. But corporations that want to keep their employees from a better standard of living are determined to kill it. For instance, Crain’s Chicago Business reported on December 8, that McDonald’s Corporation is busy mobilizing its 2,400 franchisees to oppose the legislation. And that’s just McDonald’s.

Why is the freedom to organize into unions such a high-stakes battle? Because for millions of Americans who work hard and live from paycheck to paycheck, the union is the path to the middle class. Full-time workers in unions bring home 30 percent higher wager than similar workers without a union, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That doesn’t even count the huge advantages that union workers have in their health insurance coverage and pensions. These same union members stay in hotels, eat in restaurants and travel on airlines for their vacations.

Many employers will fight tooth and nail to keep their employees from having that kind of bargaining power. Kate Bronfenbrenner of Cornell University found that 90 percent of private-sector employers fight their workers’ efforts to form a union, and a quarter even illegally fire union supporters.

On Election Day, America’s working families voted for good jobs, health care for all, and the chance for working people to keep a fair share of the wealth they help create. They also voted overwhelmingly for candidates for the White House and Congress who endorsed the Employee Free Choice Act.

Quote of the Month
“We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. When the legal opposition dies, I think the soul of America dies with it.”
Edward R. Murrow
Credit
Stanley Turkel
Hotel Interactive® Editorial Division

Bio: Stanley Turkel, MHS, ISHC operates his hotel consulting office as a sole practitioner specializing in franchising issues, asset management and litigation support services. Turkel’s clients are hotel owners and franchisees, investors and lending institutions. Turkel serves on the Board of Advisors and lectures at the NYU Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management. He is a member of the prestigious International Society of Hospitality Consultants. His ...
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RE: Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) as American as Apple Pie? article link
While I appreciate Hotel Interactive®'s approach to put both sides of the story relating to this legislation, I still feel that this defense is still clutching at straws in the hope of encouraging support.



Well run hotels succeed because they communicate with their employees. We work to shave off unneccessary expense that doesn't affect the guest experience or our hard-working team. Our employees trust that we will look after them, and we appreciate that trust.



In WA State, the hourly minimum wage rose by 48 cents to $8.55 which is a massive jump, especially when the recession is hitting this industry hard. Such increases, definately above the rise in living costs, restrict us from offering other significant increases, which in turn decreases employee morale who still feel they are only worth barely over 'minimum wage' despite a massive increase in the hotel's labor costs.



I will always believe this legislation to be a pay-off for election support by the Unions. Sadly, as the nation's economy continues to be run with such apparent disregard for entreprenurial skills and private enterprise, this legislation is just another nail in the coffin of the business world.
Posted by: Damian Humpreys
4/9/2009

RE: Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) as American as Apple Pie? article link
I have never met an Owner or GM that enjoys laying off people. Nor have I ever met an Owner or GM who does not like to make a profit. The two are not mutually exclusive. Unionization does not guarantee a job for the worker any more than it guarantees a profit for the Owner. I very much disagree with the Hart poll. I would like to see how the questions were worded. If the Hart poll was so accurate then then numbers would be increasing in Union membership over the years but in fact according to the labor department have gone down by almost half over the last 10 years. I think we need to look at the broader picture. In every downturn throughout history, recession after recession, being a member of a Union did not guarantee you a job. The low skilled workers always have been the first to take the hit from any downturn in any economy throughout the ages. That's life. Get over it ! Now that I've said that, let me state this. I am a great believer in sharing some of the wealth. But I am not a believer in someone or some Union or Government agency demanding that I share the wealth. Let's face it. The Union boss, the Government bureaucrat (elected or not), the low skilled worker, etc. did not take the initial risk of investment, toil and labor that it took to create my business. Theoretically, since I took the risk, weathered the storms, suffered the initial losses, etc. to build my business, I shouldn't really have to share the spoils with anyone! However, as I stated earlier, I recognize that along the way there were many contributors that came on board that eventually made my business the success it is today. In addition, there are those that continue to come on board and help sustain that level of prosperity. Did they take the initial risks, NO. Did they put in initial financial contributions to create the business, NO. Did they weather the initial storms, NO. But they do and have made a contribution to the success of the company. Therefore, I dare say to the Owners or GM's of the world, share the wealth, or at least part of it ! If you don't have some sort of rewards program, profit sharing, or some other sort of compensation for these workers, then I say, shame on you ! I'm not just talking about the minimal 401 K's etc. But other rewards programs, bonuses based on profits, good jobs done, new ideas implemented, etc. I heard of a very innovative owner that put in a "profitable" child care center next to his hotel so his workers (mostly single mom's) could enjoy a well run and FREE day care for their children, but charged a fee for other children that used the facility to make it at least break even. His production went through the roof, less days off, happier workers, less stressed workers concerned about their children being left alone at home, etc. For long term workers that got laid off, the day care remained free for one year after termination just as an additional perk. Another owner, contributed a portion of the profits into a fund that would be paid out to laid off workers that had been long term employees. This was paid in addition to any government assistance. If you spent the 30% increase that Unions would place on your Hotel on these kinds of rewards "out of the box thinking" (I'm very confident that it would be far less than 30%), Unions will be the last thing on workers minds. Last thing is that if Unions are so good, then why is GM, Ford, and Chrysler who have been Unionized for years, losing Billions of dollars each year and now thinks they need "Government bailout" (which of course I am opposed to...I say let them go under and start over). But alas, Toyota with it's "non Union" factory in Alabama returned several Billion in profit this last year ! Go Figure !
4/8/2009

RE: Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) as American as Apple Pie? article link
Nice try. As American as apple pie? What part of employee intimidation, harassment, losing their right to a secret ballot election and not being give both side of the facts due to a fast track NLRB campaign process prior to a secret ballot election are you talking about as being American?



What part of American are YOU from?


Posted by: Roger Ram
4/8/2009

RE: Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) as American as Apple Pie? article link
It has clearly been too long since you worked with the union - these are theoretical arguments that don't reflect reality. Union members are often accosted away from the office and more likely to face real physical threats from other union members. Also, you show no understanding of the issues facing hotel OWNERSHIP - if we stop investing due to low (or even negative) returns, there will be no jobs.



My experience is the best situation is the threat of the union, especially in right to work states - employees are treated well and receive good benefits to keep out the unions. Only poorly managed hotels should fall prey while well managed hotels can be allowed to make reasonable profits and deal with normal business issues (including normal ee issues).



I grew up in a union household and support the theoretical need for unions - however, the current unions do little for the employees, even in the situations where they are needed.



You really need to talk to real managers about how difficult the unions have become and the ridiculousness of the situation in cities like New York.
4/8/2009

RE: Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) as American as Apple Pie? article link
Stanley should realize that a employee will always vote their best interest in the privacy of a voting booth and that employees have been badgered, followed to cars and at home by organizers wanting them to sign cards. Imagine a small employee confronted by a large union organizer. Then someone that doesn't understand your business, when the union makes impossible demands you wouldn't agree to, comes in and tells you what you have to pay and do! I wouldn't be investing in new business i have no control over. Look at the business that have been heavily unionized auto,airlines, etc they are all in trouble or have left our country because they can't compete. The free market works and while in the past the unions protected workers now we have laws that cover that and the union promote a wedge between workers and management and featherbedding practices. With todays economic problems this is the last thing we need! It is a payback for the $$ the unions contribute to politics which is big money its called special interests.
Posted by: Mr. dave sweet
4/8/2009

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