Report | Unions and Labor Standards

The Employee Free Choice Act: Questions and Answers

Issue Brief #249

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For more than 70 years, the nation’s labor laws have proclaimed that working Americans’ right to join a union is a fundamental freedom, just like the rights to speak or worship. Indeed the freedoms to form unions and bargain with employers follow from other basic American rights–freedom of association and petitioning for the redress of grievances. But, over the years, this basic American right has been eroded by employers’ interference in the process by which working Americans once were able to decide for themselves whether to form unions. In order to restore this right, bipartisan legislation–the Employee Free Choice Act–has been introduced by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Reps. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Peter King (R-N.Y.).

On March 1, 2007, a bipartisan majority of the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Employee Free Choice Act by 241-185. On June 26, 2007, the proposed law gained majority support in the U.S. Senate but was blocked by the threat of a filibuster.

In 2009, Congress will consider the Employee Free Choice Act once again. There are strong economic arguments for a law that will empower working Americans to revive the economy by restoring their purchasing power. However, this compelling case has been challenged by false procedural points, including the claim that, by empowering working Americans to form unions through majority sign-up, the bill would outlaw secret ballot elections about union representation. Therefore, these questions and answers address the procedural issues, so that the debate can return to the real issues of how working Americans can share in the gains of their growing productivity and how the nation can build an economic recovery on paychecks, not bubbles.

EPI has prepared a set of answers to some common questions asked about the Employee Free Choice Act.