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.

The EFCA Report has a full list of the alternatives and you can read the Senator’s prepared remarks on his website here.   You can also view his entire speech in the clip above.

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.  

  • Although I put down the paper bag I was breathing into, I have not thrown it away. The current political power of organized labor is too great to avoid a rash of pro-labor legislation. Some substantial NLRA “reform” will be accomplished during the Obama Administration. It may not be now and it may not be the current version of EFCA, but the organizing process will be made easier. Don’t forget about the RESPECT Act (allowing working supervisors to join a union). I agree that improved workforce relations are critical, but many employers are so unfamiliar with unions that they unprepared to respond to an organizing campaign in any form.