One of the critical provisions of the Employee Free Choice Act would guarantee that workers who form a union get a fair first contract. Because right now, writes Catherine Fisk of the University of California-Irvine:
“During the past decade, nearly half of all newly certified unions failed to reach a first contract within a year, and one-quarter of new unions did not have a contract after three years of bargaining.”
Writing in the National Law Journal, Fisk says that by not getting a fair first contract, workers who exercised their right to select union representation
never got what the law guarantees them: collective representation in establishing wages and working conditions.
Getting a first contract is a critical part of the union formation process—and ensuring that workers have access to a fair negotiating process is central to reforming the nation’s labor law. We need to make sure there’s a process to help employees and management reach an agreement through mediation and, for issues the parties are unable to resolve on their own, arbitration.
First-contract arbitration will end the widespread employer practice of flouting the duty to bargain, talking a union to death and acting with impunity in defeating the employees’ choice of unionization.
Fisk notes that either side in a contract negotiation can request arbitration, and only after months of bargaining.