EFCA Politics

by Brien Jackson

T.A. Frank has an article in the new Washington Monthly that argues that the actual card check provision of EFCA is actually the bill’s least important element, and that the strengthening of existing regulations governing employer behavior in union drives is much more important.

That’s probably a pretty fair argument, at least given that Frank is certainly trying to make a point about politics in good faith, but I think it still misses a pretty big point about th politics of EFCA. As Ezra Klein, at least, has pointed out, the biggest problem EFCA proponents are going to have as debate over the bill heats up is that they have yet to forcefully explain why the policy around union elections needs to be changed. I agree with the bill, obviously, but it is fairly easy to demagogue with the specter of “eliminating the secret ballot,” and there’s really no good, cable-rific response to that. Sure, you could explain that EFCA doesn’t eliminate the right of workers to use a secret ballot, and that it only takes a request from 30% of workers to mandate a secret ballot election, but there’s just no way to make a good sound byte out of that.

Instead, EFCA proponents should articulate the problem they’re seeking to address, before they take up a debate over the solution. They should drill home the staggering statistics on the number of employers who violate the law during union drives, whether it’s firing workers who support the union, threatening to close shops, eliminate positions, or refusing to negotiate with a union that does get certified. But ultimately, people have to agree that there is a problem before they’ll listen to your ideas on how to fix it.