Friday, January 29, 2010

State of the Unions - EFCA-Lite and the Private Sector Decline

The U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics recently released the results of a Union Membership Survey. As the New York Times reports:
"For the first time in American history, a majority of union members are government workers rather than private-sector employees."
This is due in large part to the huge decrease in union membership in the private sector in 2009. Fueled largely by huge job losses in construction and manufacturing, private sector union membership shrank from 8.2 million to 7.4 million.

Overall union membership dropped by 771,000. NYT goes on to quote Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, "This report makes clear why the administration supports the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA)." But what the heck does EFCA mean?

It used to mean card check, binding arbitration and increased penalties for employers that violate the NLRA. Now? Who knows. In a Boston Globe op-ed, Steve Early outlines labor's "new survival plan," including "EFCA-lite." He describes a plan by an "informal Capitol Hill committee" whereby card check without secret ballot elections is out,
"But the National Labor Relations Board - now one of the slowest moving federal agencies - would be directed to hold expedited elections, thereby reducing opportunities for unlawful tactics designed to thwart union representation."
Early laments the lost opportunity for labor reform and notes that President Obama failed to even mention "employee free choice" in his State of the Union address.

We'll see what the future holds. Every indication is that huge reform like that proposed in the original EFCA is all but dead. But perhaps "EFCA-lite" is on the way...

Image: Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis - Official Portrait from Department of Labor, public domain image.