Under current labor law, the United States is
strikingly deficient in protecting freedom of association and
the freedom to form unions, says a new report by Human Rights
an independent human-rights advocacy group. The solution?
Congress must pass the
Employee Free Choice Act.
In a new report,
The Employee Free Choice Act: A Human Rights Imperative,
HRW lays out the case for its quick passage to restore workers’
freedom to form unions without fear of harassment, coercion or
termination. The report is part of HRW’s critical work as
watchdogs for human rights, the freedom of association and the
treatment of workers from
Colombia to India
and around the world.
The report analyzes international labor
standards the United States has agreed to by treaty, points out
where it’s deficient in meeting those standards and explains how
the Employee Free Choice will remedy the situation and restore
workers’ fundamental freedom to form unions and bargain for a
Congress should pass the Employee Free
Choice Act to help remedy glaring deficiencies in current
U.S. labor law that significantly impair the right of
workers to freely choose whether to form a union. Workers’
right to organize and bargain collectively is well
established under international human rights law…the United
States is legally bound to protect this fundamental right.
In practice, it falls far short, and failure by U.S.
employers to respect workers’ right to freedom of
association is rampant.
In particular, HRW’s report points to three
serious flaws in U.S. labor law that are addressed by the
Employee Free Choice Act:
- Unfair election procedures that are badly
slanted toward employers, giving the employer, in practice,
the ultimate say over how workers form a union:
U.S. law also
allows employers to refuse to recognize a union based on freely
signed authorizations by a clear majority of workers explicitly
indicating their desire to organize—a “card check”—and demand
instead that a union demonstrate majority support through an
NLRB election. The period leading up to that election, lasting
at least several weeks but often longer, creates an opening for
anti-union employers to make aggressive use of the tilted
- The lack of serious penalties for
corporate misconduct, including intimidation and firing of
workers, and the ability of companies to indefinitely delay
and deter attempts to form a union:
breaching U.S. labor law are so minor that employers often treat
them as a cost of doing business—a small price to pay for
defeating worker organizing efforts. Under U.S. labor law, an
employer faces no punitive penalties and few, if any, economic
consequences for violating workers’ right to freedom of
- The ability of companies to ignore
workers’ choice to bargain collectively by refusing to reach
a fair contract:
Even if U.S.
workers successfully organize, however, their fundamental right
to freedom of association is still not fully secure because of
shortcomings in current legal provisions governing collective
bargaining….Because there are no significant negative
repercussions for illegal conduct…there is little incentive for
intransigent employers to comply with the law.