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H.R. 3619, The Employee Free Choice Act

Location: Washington, DC

H.R. 3619, THE EMPLOYEE FREE CHOICE ACT -- (Extensions of Remarks - June 09, 2004)


Mr. UDALL of Colorado. Mr. Speaker, I have agreed to become a co-sponsor of H.R. 3619, the Employee Free Choice Act, but not before considerable thought and deliberation. Among other things, this legislation gives workers the right to unionize and be recognized by the National Relations Labor Board (NLRB) when a majority of the workers sign a card circulated by union organizers. I continue to remain skeptical of any election system in which voters are not free to make their decisions in private. A simple card check system could arguably provide opportunities for group pressure and even coercion and I am convinced that the secret ballot process works best in most cases. However, I am disturbed by reports citing example after example of employers using heavy handed techniques to discourage workers from organizing a union shop in the first place and intimidating and even illegally firing workers who decide to join a union.

I am particularly troubled by a recent decision by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) that gives employers carte blanche to intimidate union organizers. In a 2-1 party line vote, the NLRB has decided that an employer may explicitly inform workers who are about to vote on whether to form a union that workers in two other facilities lost their jobs after they formed a union. It is my understanding that the regional NLRB director ruled against the employer, saying that the memo circulated by the employer "clearly implied" the union was responsible for the firings at the other two hotels and insinuated similar firings could happen if the workers voted for the union. However, the two NLRB Bush appointees overruled the regional director's decision and claimed the memo "did not exceed the bounds of permissible campaign statements." The Democratic appointee was the lone dissenter.

This decision sends a clear message to employers that just about anything goes when it comes to union busting. And the message is equally clear to unions: if you try to organize, you could be fired. This is an untenable situation and the Employee Free Choice Act is, therefore, an opportunity to try to equalize the playing field between union organizers, union busters, and now the NLRB. In short, Mr. Speaker, I have come to the reluctant conclusion that the NLRB under the Bush Administration is more interested in busting unions than in protecting workers' rights to form and join unions. In this atmosphere, a shot across the bow is needed and this legislation does that.

On balance, I would prefer a policy that energizes and funds the NLRB. But it is becoming increasingly clear that we may have to wait for a new Administration to provide this balanced leadership. Co-sponsorship of this legislation, even with its flaws, sends an important and necessary message to the Administration to clean up its act.

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