Over the last few weeks or so, plenty of commentators have been hyperventilating over the Employee Free Choice Act — a bill pending in Congress. I’ve resisted the urge to do so in the belief that we were still a long way from passage and that the concepts in the bill were going to go through a lot more refining.
This belief was also grounded in the fact that the White House had barely bothered to mention it on the website. Even today, type in "Employee Free Choice Act" or "EFCA" to the White House site and you get virtually no entries, other than a passing reference in a videotaped speech to the AFL-CIO.
So, for anyone that’s been tracking votes, it came as little surprise to hear yesterday that Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania signaled his opposition to the bill in its current form.
In doing so, he proposed a number of alternatives for consideration to reform the National Labor Relations Act. Among them:
- Speeding up elections;
- Broadening the scope of what an "unfair labor practice" is;
- Increasing the penalties for violations of labor laws.
By issuing a proposal (not exactly an "alternative" per se to the EFCA, but additional reforms), Senator Specter has indicated his willingness to pass SOME reforms of the nation’s labor laws. But it is now unlikely that the EFCA will pass in its current form.
For employers, the best path may simply be to ignore the hyperbole and continue to focus on ways to improve your relationship with your workforce. A responsive management that listens to its workforce and treats its employees fairly has always been among the best tools that an employer to keep its workforce from organizing, if that’s its desire.