A Gallup Poll in March showed that Americans are generally in favor of the Employee Free Choice Act. Many, however, don’t seem to know much about it — or care.
Here are the results of a multiquestion poll:
Question: Generally speaking, would you favor or oppose a new law that would make it easier for labor unions to organize employees?
- Favor: 53%
- Oppose: 39%
- No opinion: 8%
By party affiliation:
- Democrats — favor, 70%; oppose, 23%
- Republicans — favor, 34%; oppose, 60%
- Independents — favor, 52%; oppose 41%
Q: How closely have you been following news about a bill on Congress that would change the rules governing how labor unions organize workers?
- Very closely: 12%
- Somewhat closely: 22%
- Not too closely: 26%
- Not at all: 39%
- No opinion: 1%
Of those who said they are following the bill “very closely”:
- 58% oppose
- 40% favor
- 2% no opinion
Of those who said they follow the bill “not at all”:
- 58% favor
- 31% oppose
- 11% no opinion
Where it stands now
At a news conference, Rep. George Miller, Democrat of California, said he had 223 co-sponsors, including three Republicans, meaning the bill had majority support in the House. Reports out of the Senate say the bill has 40 co-sponsors in that chamber, down from 46 in the previous Congress.
About eight Senate Democrats and one Republican, Senator Arlen Specter of union-friendly Pennsylvania, are seen as undecideds — and thus are the targets for heavy lobbying.
The Democrats have 56 Senate seats and can usually count on two independents, and if Al Franken of Minnesota is seated, that would give Democrats 59 seats. So if just one or two Democrats oppose the bill, labor would have a hard time mustering the 60 votes to overcome the same type of filibuster that sent the bill down to defeat in the last Congress.
Summary of the bill
The main — and most controversial parts — of the bill:
- The “card check” provision for union representation when 50% plus one of the employees in an appropriate bargaining unit sign union authorization cards.
- Compulsory first contract, mandating a first contract by requiring that where the parties have failed to reach agreement after 120 days of collective bargaining and mediation, a federally-appointed arbitrator will be selected to write the terms and conditions of employment binding the union and the employer for two years.
- Three new penalties for employer unfair labor practices during the period of union organizing and bargaining for an initial contract: (1) liquidated damages equivalent to triple back pay for employees terminated in violation of the National Labor Relations Act ; (2) fines of $20,000 for each unfair labor practice; and (3) mandatory injunction proceedings for campaign-related unfair labor practices.