Card Check/Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA)

Workers have long sought the protection of unions to provide safer working conditions, fair wages, and certain other legal protections. Traditionally, "unionizing" requires employees to come together as a bargaining unit to produce a majority decision in favor of joining the union. There are two ways in which this is usually accomplished. The first method--known colloquially as “majority sign-up”--is a process that requires employees to sign public cards expressing their desire to be represented by a union. After a certain percentage of votes have been registered on this public card, the employer may grant employees the right to unionize. The second method available to workers is the National Labor Relation Board's (NLRB) election process, where employees cast secret ballots to determine whether to unionize.

Under the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), however, if the NLRB verifies that more than 50 percent of workers have signed the preliminary authorization cards, the secret election process is bypassed and a union is automatically formed. This is where the named “card-check” originates: from checking the results of employee’s cards. The bill has sparked generous amounts of controversy since its introduction to Congress in 2005 and its reintroductions in 2007 and 2009.

As an original co-sponsor of the EFCA bill, then-Senator Barack Obama urged his fellow Congressmen to pass the bill, explaining, "I support this bill because in order to restore a sense of shared prosperity and security, we need to help working Americans exercise their right to organize under a fair and free process and bargain for their fair share of the wealth our country creates. The current process for organizing a workplace denies too many workers the ability to do so. The Employee Free Choice Act offers to make binding an alternative process under which a majority of employees can sign up to join a union."

Naturally, however, this piece of legislation is not without its detractors. The major opposition to card check is threefold. First, opponents generally maintain that the card-check process increases the risk of coercion. If the public card check vote fast-tracks the unionizing process, then employees are at a much greater risk to have personal pressured applied to them to vote for a union--regardless of their preference. Second, an exclusive card-check process denies employees the fundamental American right to private ballots. Third, employee's decisions to join a union should, ultimately, be a private matter.

Unionizing is a lengthy process that is often wrought with shadiness--both from employers reluctant to see their employees unionize and from unions looking to open new lines of revenues. Whether or not “card check” is the best manner of legislative reform to fix this process is hotly contested. While the bill has been unpopular during all three of its iterations, there is still a strong majority of backers in Congress that could push the EFCA to fruition. It’s an exciting time in labor reform, so inform yourself by staying current with the latest commentaries, analysis, and reports. 

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Quotes on Credit Check and the Employee Free Choice Act from politicians, economists, and experts in the field.

Commentary or Blog Post

Matthew Boyle discusses the National Labor Relations Board's member, Craig Becker, and the possibility he has created a conflict of interests with his former employer, the A.F.L.-C.I.O, in their lawsuit against Boeing.

This article covers the A.F.L.-C.I.O. and their support for the Democratic party, especially Barack Obama.

EFCA’s imposed binding arbitration would irreparably wound one of the most extraordinary features in American society, the willingness to take risk to build an enterprise that generates prosperity for one’s family and community. It must never be allowed to be signed into law.

Given that support for card check may not be sufficient to get legislation passed, Democrats might attempt to pass a bill that just calls for mandatory arbitration, which would allow a federal arbitrator to impose wages and benefits after a short bargaining period without the chance for appeal.

Perhaps the greatest current threat to American economic recovery is the Employee Free Choice Act, or card check, which would do away with the secret ballot in union elections.

Under heavy pressure from Moderate Democrats and Republicans, Senate Democrats agreed to drop the card-check provision from the heavily debated labor bill known colloquially as the “card-check bill.”

The authors of this short commentary provide the following anecdote to describe the coercive and creative measures union organizers are going to under the EFCA.

Organized Labor has made the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) its top legislative priority. The act would replace the current system of secret-ballot organizing elections with card checks, in which workers publicly sign union cards to organize and join a union.

Big Labor’s top legislative priority, a bill creating an easier way to organize workers, is essentially dead – and its own members were instrumental in killing it.

Looking at the survey data, it's easy to see why organized labor seeks the legislation and why Democrats support it.

This article describes the unionizing efforts in the Las Vegas Strip hotels. It reveals the improvements made to employee wages and benefits through unionizing 90% of the major hotels in the area.

As scholars who have conducted research for several years on neutrality and card-check agreements (N/CC), we offer an empirical evaluation of the arguments against card check.

What’s especially revealing is that union members hold that belief even more strongly than people who don’t belong to a union. Union leadership might want to do away with the secret ballot, but rank-and-file workers want their votes kept private.

As Barack Obama's inauguration approaches, the political favours that he owes to getting him to where he is now are starting to be called in.

Diane Stafford examines the history of the National Labor Relations Board and its recent decisions aimed at reviving much of the legislation that failed with the Employee Free Choice Act.

A grass-roots movement to enact right-to-work laws in Michigan has begun a campaign its spokespeople called a fight for free choice that would create more jobs.

The NLRB’s latest salvo is a lawsuit against Arizona. Arizona is one of four states where voters last fall resoundingly added to their constitutions the right to secret-ballot elections in union organizing.

Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, took a swipe at Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) Tuesday, calling the senators 'terrorists' for their opposition to the card-check bill, which Democrats call the Employee Free Choice Act.

Wendy Powell warns of the National Labor Relations Board's plans to resurrect the Employee Free Choice Act, which was halted in 2009, and its attempts to circumvent Congress by modifying the National Labor Relations Act instead.

Epstein lays out how the EFCA violates the First and Fifth Amendments of the Constitution.

Organized labor has finally found a way to replenish the coffers of its underfunded pension plans. The key is mandatory binding arbitration between newly-formed unions and employers, one of the main provisions of the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act.

A spate of recent activity by the National Labour Relations Board has done two things for the agency: aroused the ire of Republicans – and reminded everyone else that the NLRB still exists.

Wal-Mart's worries center on a piece of legislation known as the Employee Free Choice Act, which companies say would enable unions to quickly add millions of new members.

John Logan discusses the recent increase in attention concerning the National Labor Relations Board. He points to two factors: NLRB's involvement with Boeing and its new rule concerning the union certification process.

Daniel Griswold discusses the removal of a provision to the Employee Free Choice Act that would have all-but eliminated a secret ballot when deciding on unions.

Chart or Graph

This chart shows the percentage over time of people who approve of labor unions. There has been a sharp decrease in recent years.

The chart shows the percentage of people who approve of labor unions based on their political ideology.

Map showing projected numbers of the increased benefits if the Employee Free Choice Act is passed.

This graph shows the percentage of people who believe labor unions either help or hurt the United States economy, in general.

Proponents of EFCA argue that the Act will reverse the downward trend in union membership and thus bolster worker wages and overall social welfare.

This map shows which states are "right to work" and which are forced-unionism.

This graph shows the decreasing percentage of union presence in the private sector.

According to Layne-Farrar, one of the key reasons the unions are pushing for EFCA is because union membership is on the decline.

Analysis Report White Paper

This polling study examines American attitudes toward unionizing, both in union and non-union households.

This paper critically assesses the arguments presented for passing EFCA and consider the likely unintended consequences it will generate, should it be passed.

This Article proposes a major devolution of labor relations policy making authority to the states. Echoing the federalism discussion in other contexts like global warming and prescription drugs, labor relation preemption doctrine should be examined and reformed by Congress.

A significant policy debate has been occurring regarding union organizing methods in the United States. This debate focuses on the appropriateness of granting union recognition based on majority support as demonstrated by union authorization card signatures, also known as 'card checking.'

Whether the misleadingly named Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA)—known as 'card check'—is introduced next week or next year, it remains the central political objective of organized labor. It was also championed as a domestic priority by President Barack Obama.

The Employee Free Choice Act of 2009 (EFCA), also known as the 'card check' bill… would fundamentally change the nature of the relationship between unions, employers, and employees.

The proposed Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) has led to fierce debate over how best to ensure employees a choice on the question of unionization. The debate goes to the core of our federal system of labor law.

Professor Benjamin Sachs, with his article Enabling Employee Choice, has injected new analytical rigor into the decades-long debate over the law governing union representation contests.

This Article examines how the NLRB has managed to remain unusually detached or isolated in its decision-making even as it has come to operate in an openly partisan manner.

Neutrality agreements represent the national labor movement’s attempt to jumpstart union organizing, reverse the steadily declining influence that unions hold among the private workforce, and ensure union success.

The authors also find that although workers in card checks do appear to have had somewhat less information about unions and about the recognition process than workers in elections, workers who felt they had insufficient information to make a decision about unionization tended not to sign cards.

Organized labor argues that Congress should effectively take away workers’ right to vote in secret ballot elections because employers allegedly intimidate workers in the run-up to elections by firing and threatening to fire pro-union workers.

Neutrality and card check recognition agreements have existed in various forms for decades, but there is surprisingly little law under the National Labor Relations Act examining these types of agreements.

This Article will also analyze how the history of the National Labor Relations Act reveals this shift to be a rejection of the very basic understandings that drove the creation of the labor-relations system in this country in the 20th century.

Richard Epstein thoroughly examines the impact and consequences of passing the Employee Free Choice Act.

The freedom to form a union is a democratic right that is under attack. Too many workers are prevented from freely choosing to band together in a union to bargain collectively with their employer on workplace issues.

Richard Epstein examines the history of labor laws in the United States from the original common laws up to the modern Employee Free Choice Act.

This case study of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) demonstrates the value of resource dependence and contingency organizational theories—two branches of organization theory, which has most commonly been used to interpret firm behavior—for analyzing union revitalization.

The yawning gap between the robust demand to join unions and the anemic membership numbers reflects the fact that, for many Americans, joining a union has become a risk rather than a right.

Under the Obama administration, the influence and involvement of trade unions in government policy decisions has surged to unprecedented levels.


Epstein first discusses labor relations before and after the Wagner Act of 1935, and then explains how the EFCA adds a new dimension to labor power.

Presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about why America's middle class needs the Employee Free Choice Act.

Dana Corp employees in Albion, IN, share with Fox News their first-hand accounts of intimidation and harassment by union operatives during an abusive card check campaign.

According to a recent study by noted economist Dr. Anne Layne-Farrar, for every three workers coerced into joining a union under Card Check, one job will be eliminated.

Charlton Heston describes his commitment that no one should be forced to join a union or pay dues in order to keep or receive employment.

Organized Labor’s highest legislative priority is the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), legislation that would dramatically reshape American labor law.

Barbara Comstock from the Workforce Fairness Institute explains how EFCA takes away basic worker rights.

Video produced for SEIU about the Employee Free Choice Act. Features American Rights at Work Executive Director Mary Beth Maxwell.

Mike Ivey of Gaffney, SC, details abuse he and his coworkers suffered under a coercive "card check" union organizing drive.

Rian Wathen, former Organizing Director for the UFCW Local 700, Indianapolis, discusses different tactics union organizers use to get employees to sign union authorization cards.

We asked that simple question to two union officials at the rally, including AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. Not surprisingly, neither really answered the question.

National Right to Work Committee President Mark Mix appears on CNN's Lou Dobbs to talk about the introduction of Big Labor's Card Check Forced Unionism Bill.

Orrin Hatch and Bernie Marcus discuss the Employee Free Choice Act on CNBC's Squawk Box.

Foundation President Mark Mix speaks to the 2009 Conservative Political Action Convention on the dangers of Big Labor's card check legislation.

Speaking at the annual Concerned Educators Against Forced Unionism (CEAFU) Conference, Right to Work Legislative Director Greg Mourad analyzes the state of card check legislation in Congress.

The Heritage Foundation questions the vice president of Miller & Long Construction, and he details how the Employee Free Choice Act would affect his company.

Fox Business investigates a coercive scheme aimed at unionizing Michigan home care providers.

In this short clip of CNBC's "Squawk Box," billionaire investor (and prominent supporter of President Obama) Warren Buffett called the anti-worker "card check" proposal "contentious," and said, "I'm against card check to make a perfectly flat statement."

Primary Document

The recent attempt by congressional Democrats to deny workers a secret ballot in union referenda is an assault, not only against a fundamental principle of labor law, but even more against the dignity and honor of the American work force.

In 1898, Congress passed a law making it illegal for employers to fire their employees solely based on their involvement with labor unions, essentially outlawing "yellow dog" contracts.

In this Town Hall Meeting Obama highlights the progress already being made since his election to the presidency in November.

In this speech to the A.F.L.-C.I.O. in Philadelphia, Obama discusses his goals for the presidency, and his support for the Employee Free Choice Act and its card check policy.

President Barack Obama's speech to the United Auto Workers Union at their conference in Dubuque, Iowa.

Passed in an effort to continue where its predecessor, the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890, had left off, the Clayton Anti-Trust Act of 1914 formally allowed unions to exist. It finally removed unions from the list of forbidden combinations allowable in industry. It also legalized the use of peaceful strikes, picketing, and boycotts.

Coppage v. Kansas overturned the Kansas Act of 1903, which prohibited employers from making contracts with their employees preventing them from joining labor unions.

Metaldyne Corporation and Dana Corporation independently entered into separate neutrality and card-check agreements with the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America, AFL–CIO.

This act seeks to "amend the National Labor Relations Act to establish an efficient system to enable employees to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to provide for mandatory injunctions for unfair labor practices during organizing efforts, and for other purposes."

"Established minimum wages, overtime pay, record keeping, and child labor standards for private sector and government workers."

President George W. Bush's Administrative outline for increasing the growth of small businesses and suggestions for Congressional policy.

President George W. Bush's speech at the America's Small Business Summit where he addresses how important small businesses are to the American economy.

In this speech before the Associated Builders and Contractors, President Bush talks about a range of issues including tax policy, health insurance, and card check.

President George W. Bush's administrative statement regarding the Employee Free Choice Act of 2007. His Administration strongly opposed the passage of the bill, stating that if the bill arrived on his desk, he would veto it immediately.

"The union's concerted refusal to work overtime was peaceful conduct constituting activity that must be free of state regulation if the congressional intent in enacting the comprehensive federal law of labor relations is not to be frustrated."

During a question concerning the possibility of voter fraud and ballot machine maintenance, McCain mentions his distrust of card check and his fears that it takes away Americans' fundamental rights.

This legislation was the first of two acts that have amended the National Labor Relations Act.

The Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act was the second act (after the Labor Management Relations Act) to amend the National Labor Relations Act.

In this statement, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer argues for the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act in the House of Representatives. He strongly urges both political parties to support the bill and its goal of aiding American workers.


cited NLRA or the Act; 29 U.S.C. §§ 151-169

[Title 29, Chapter 7, Subchapter II, United States Code]


1.[§151.] The denial by some employers of the right of employees to organize and the refusal by some employers to accept the procedure of...

In the case, NLRB v. Shaw's Supermarkets, Inc., the main issue concerned a possible violation of the National Labor Relations Act. The NLRB attempted to force a new election for unionizing the company because it claimed Shaw's Supermarkets, Inc. had threatened its employees to not unionize.

The Supreme Court ruled in the affirmative for all of these questions. This signified a major victory in the progression towards "card check."

A precursor to the National Labor Relations Act, the Norris-LaGuardia Act "curbed the power of the courts to issue injunctions or restraining orders against strikes, absent violence or fraud." Furthermore, "Congress declared the policy of the United States to be that workers were free to join unions and bargain collectively."

Trades Council v. Garmon revolved around the issue of proper jurisdiction during a lumber union strike. It questioned whether jurisdiction lay with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) or with a California State Court.

Over the decades, the Board has revised its rules periodically, looking for ways to achieve a broadly-shared goal: making the representation process work as well as possible.

"In reality, union leaders only want the power to harass workers like me into joining their union, paying dues and increasing the union bosses’ power."

A precursor to the National Labor Relations Act, the Railway Labor Act sought "to avoid any interruption of interstate commerce by providing for the prompt disposition of disputes between carriers and their employees." It also "protects the right of employees to organize and bargain collectively."

The Secret Ballot Protection Act, introduced by the late Congressman Charlie Norwood in the 110th Congress (H.R. 866), ensures that workers, faced with the decision of whether to unionize, maintain their right to a secret ballot.

Pawlenty outlines his political platform and his views on various policy issues. He pledges to downsize the federal government and to pay public workers for their results.

A transcript of U.S. Representative Betty Sutton promising to support the Employee Free Choice Act and urging fellow representatives to aid its passage.

In this floor statement U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller expresses his support for the Employee Free Choice Act. He presses the importance of the bill and its ability to aid the worker's plight by allowing easier unionization.

In this statement U.S. Senator Richard Shelby expresses strong objections to the Employee Free Choice Act, and he pledges to not vote for its passage. He believes EFCA undermines business by allowing unions to intimidate workers into signing cards for the union cause.



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