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NLRB Examiner Says U.S. Needs Employee Free Choice

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Ask Shannon Hilt, who’s seen our broken system for forming unions firsthand, and she’ll tell you that there’s no question: Workers need the Employee Free Choice Act.

Hilt spent three years as a field examiner for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), overseeing the elections process and investigating unfair practices. She says the system we have now, one in which companies, not workers, have all the power, isn’t free, it isn’t fair and doesn’t protect workers.

Writing in the Boulder, Colo., Daily Camera, Hilt explains how her years of experience as an NLRB field examiner have convinced her that we need fundamental labor law reform that gives workers, not their bosses, the ability to decide how they form a union and bargain. Here’s how Hilt describes the way union elections happen now:

Through the process of holding union elections, I observed that employees were often intimidated and harassed before the election took place. The company has unfettered access to employees before the union election takes place and oftentimes they use that access to hold mandatory meetings where they discourage their employees from voting for a union in illegal ways.

When it came down to the day of the vote, the fact that the elections are held on company property and that employees are released from their work stations to go vote and watched at distance by their superiors makes the election process less neutral than it could be. Throughout the process, I could tell that some workers felt intimidated.

The difficulties and abuses workers often face when trying to form unions have been documented in numerous studies, and Hilt knows that these aren’t just statistics. The harassment, intimidation and firing companies can engage in with impunity stop workers from exercising their basic freedoms, she says:

Many workers, knowing that the law will not protect them and that the employer holds all the cards in the workplace, decide not to risk asserting their collective voice. This is tragic for workers who want to work together to raise their wages, better their working conditions and improve their company. It is also a tragedy for American democracy.

In her valuable op-ed, Hilt asks Colorado’s Sens. Mark Udall and Michael Bennet to join the broad national coalition in support of Employee Free Choice. Read the entire op-ed here.


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