Is proposed law helpful or harmful?

WASHINGTON ( – When the Employee Free Choice Act legislation was introduced by leading members of the U.S. Senate and House last month, proponents said the goal was to help workers bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions by restoring their rights to form unions.

“The current crisis has shown us the dangers of an economy that leaves working families behind. The people who work in our factories, build our roads, and care for our children are the backbone of this great nation. The Employee Free Choice Act will give these hardworking men and women a greater voice in the decisions that affect their families and their futures. It’s a critical step toward putting our economy back on track, and I hope that we can act quickly to send it to the president’s desk,” said Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.


While it was hailed by unions, business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Black Chamber of Commerce oppose the legislation.

According to Harry C. Alford, president and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce, “This is tantamount to a coup or power grab. Entrepreneurs don’t take the risks and work hard hours to give it all up. This bill if enacted will kill thousands of enterprises and lay off workers like no recession could do. And denying workers the right to secret ballot elections is undemocratic, plain and simple.”

Andy Ingraham of the National Association of Black Hotel Owners Operators and Developers said, “This is the most important piece of legislation that can have a negative impact on African American hotel ownership if passed.”

Ash Patel, of the Asian American Hotel Owners of America, added, “The small and family-owned hotels that are members of AAHOA would be seriously threatened if the card check bill became law. Equally harmed would be the hotel workers whose privacy and secret ballot rights would be violated.”

The issue driving the discussion is whether workers would be allowed to have secret ballots or simply use a card to sign up for a union.

Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, said the Employee Free Choice Act does not abolish the secret ballot. According to Rep. Miller the bill would make it easier for workers to organize by using majority signup. If a majority does not want to go through with signing up, a National Labor Relations Board election process would follow, he said.

“Unions are good for working people,” said James Muhammad, a senior communications specialist for SEIU Healthcare Illinois/Indiana. “They give them power to influence and give them a voice. Union workers are better paid and have more protections.”

“Once employers see workers organizing they often intimidate, frighten, scare or turn good, hard working people against the union. The Employee Free Choice Act allows people to say yes I will or no I won’t. Employees decide whether or not to sign the card,” he said.