Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) released a “new and improved” Employee Free Choice Act. Businesses and labor leaders are trying to decide whether it really is new or improved.
Just before President Obama appeared at the AFL-CIO convention in Pittsburgh, Specter promised union officials that by year’s end Congress would pass his new EFCA, and that it would be “totally satisfactory to labor.”
Here’s an outline of Specter’s current bill:
- Dropped from the original bill: the controversial card-check option allowing workers to organize by getting their co-workers to sign pro-union cards, instead of having to hold secret-ballot elections in the workplace.
- Added: A provision limiting the time between organizers’ declaration that they have enough support to call an election and the day of the vote, to reduce the potential for employer intimidation, according to Specter and others bill supporters.
- Organizers would get guaranteed access to workers if employers held mandatory anti-union meetings on company time. And the penalties for employers convicted of breaking labor law rules would be triple what they are now.
- Mandatory “last best offer arbitration” if labor and management can’t decide on a contract. In that type of arbitration, a mediator has to pick one labor’s offer or management’s offer, but can’t “split the difference.” That means neither side can make an unreasonable offer as a bargaining ploy and hope that an arbitrator settles on some half-way measure to make everyone happy.
The bill would need 60 votes to break a filibuster, and Specter predicted that number is reachable, since conservative Democrats have hinted that they’d vote for a bill that didn’t include the card-check provision.