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Issue Date: Vol. 49, No.4, April 2009, Posted On: 3/31/2009

NAMA Calls On Operators To Defend Secret Ballot In Union Elections

Tim Sanford
Vending, Vending Machine, National Automatic Merchandising Association, Employee Free Choice Act

WASHINGTON -- The National Automatic Merchandising Association is urging vending operators to contact their elected officials in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives and ask them to oppose any so-called "employee free choice" legislation that does not protect the secret ballot in union elections.

Brian B. Allen, NAMA's senior director, government affairs, explained that the 110th Congress considered an Employee Free Choice Act last year; it passed in the House as HR 800, but was not acted on by the Senate. It contained three provisions that were unacceptable, Allen said.

First, it would have eliminated the secret ballot presently required to determine employee wishes after a union organizing campaign. Last year's EFCA would have substituted a simple card check which, being public, invites intimidation and coercion. Disenfranchisement of workers is not a step in the right direction, he added.

Second, it sought to require government arbitration under a variety of circumstances that would impose unreasonable and inflexible terms, causing employers to lose control over their operations and so preventing them from expanding their businesses.

Third, it would have increased penalties for violations of the National Labor Relations Act in a one-sided manner, punishing employers more severely, but not adding any new sanctions on unions or labor organizers.

Moreover, Allen said, the measure did not address key issues such as how long the cards signed during an organizing drive are valid, how those cards are to be validated to ensure that they are not forged; and whether employees can act to decertify a union by using the same process.

If such a bill were enacted, "vending operators would be required to campaign year-round because they would have no notice of union activity until the cards were already signed and delivered, as opposed to the structured campaigning that takes place prior to a secret ballot," NAMA summed up.

NAMA warned that EFCA would be devastating to small employers, the primary source for new jobs especially during this current economic downturn. "In good economic times this bill is awful, but in difficult times, it is catastrophic," said Allen.

Questions may be directed to Brian Allen by calling him at NAMA headquarters, (312) 346-0370, ext. 222, or emailing to ballen@vending.org. Specific labor law inquiries may be made of NAMA Knowledge Source Partner Heather A. Bailey, Drinker Biddle & Reath (Chicago), at (312) 569-1179 or ethr.bailey@dbr.com.

 EFCA UPDATE: IT'S BA-A-ACK! On March 10, 2009, Sens. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA) introduced the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) in the 111th Congress (HR 1409, S 560). The text of the bills may be found online at thomas.gov.

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