NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 28, 2008

The next president will help determine the course of labor unions.  Barack Obama's has proposed to "strengthen the ability of workers to organize unions." The Wall Street Journal has outlined his plan below.

Under current law, union organizers and management have the opportunity to present the pros and cons of forming a union.  Then a secret employee vote is held, and even though labor and management are required to bargain in good faith, they are not obliged to reach an agreement.  With his Employee Free Choice Act, Obama plans to restructure the system:

  • He would do away with the secret ballot, making unions the sole provider of information to the employee.
  • The workers' decision whether to organize would no longer be private; unions would be certified to negotiate pay, benefits and work rules simply by collecting signed "union authorized cards" form a majority of employees.
  • Arbitration will be mandatory, and if parties can't settle a contract within 210 days, the arbitration can then impose the contract that is bound to include much of what unions demand.


  • Obama supports legislation to reverse the National Labor Relations Board's "Kentucky River" ruling which fleshed out the definition of a supervisor for the purposes of organizing; unions usually prefer a narrow definition of management, because it increases the number of people potentially under their control.
  • He wants to bar companies from replacing striking workers - a right that management has held from some 70 years - and supports the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act that would force state and local governments to recognize union leaders as the exclusive bargaining agent for policy, firefighters and other first responders.
  • He also wants to raise the minimum wage again, to $9.50 per hour by 2011, and index it for inflation.

Source: Jason L. Riley, "The Election Choice: Unions," Wall Street Journal, October 27, 2008.

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