It seems likely that there will be some manner of labor organization reform to the almost seventy-five (75) year old National Labor Relations Act. Three bills pending before Congress offer differing levels of reform.
Pro-Labor: Employee Free Choice Act of 2009 (H.R. 1409) Would require the National Labor Relations Board certify a union (without a campaign or election) that obtains signed authorization cards from a majority of the employees; requires companies and unions to enter into binding arbitration over the terms and conditions of an initial contract (binding for two years) if it cannot be agreed to after ninety (90) days of negotiations and thirty (30) days of mediation; and increases the penalties that can be assessed against employers found to have discriminated against an employee in violation of the NLRA.
Pro-Management: Secret Ballot Protection Act (S.B. 478) This bill would make it an unfair labor practice for an employer to recognize a union that has not been selected by secret ballot and also make it unlawful for a union to cause an employer to recognize and bargain with it in the absence of a secret ballot election.
Pro-Labor: National Labor Relations Modernization Act (H.R. 1355) This bill would require employers to provide labor organizations with equal access to the employees in the run up to a representational election. It would require employers that intend to make presentations, provide handouts, display signage or have meetings to allow the unions to conduct the same activities and have the same access. This bill does not, however, in its current form attempt to eliminate the secret ballot as the EFCA does.
Labor organization reform is a priority for organized labor. Maintaining the status quo, preserving the right to secret ballot elections is a priority of business. With the emphasis each side is placing on the issue it seems likely to me that some form of reform will become law during 2009. Stay tuned for more developments as we see which bill or compromise bill becomes law.