At the halfway mark of its first year in office, the Obama administration is attempting to mend the country’s broken system of labor policy and labor laws. Already, there have been initiatives in the vital areas of employment protection – federal unemployment insurance, health and safety rules and minimum wage enforcement. On the major labor-management power issue, the Employee Free Choice Act, the White House has been cautious about the precise form that legislation should take.
Employee Free Choice Act
Obama’s support of this legislation has been renewed since the inauguration. The focus here is to address lethargic enforcement, administrative delay and ineffective remedies for violations of employee union organizational rights. The National Labor Relations Act, once regarded as a bedrock of labor rights, has seen statutory loopholes dilate into a “black hole” in Washington headquarters where complaints can sit for more than five years while workers await reinstatement and back pay.
The Obama administration has embarked on labor policy initiatives with renewed energy and dedication to human dignity for all workers. A properly amended Employee Free Choice Act is a key part of this. Eager to court Republicans in the interest of bipartisan approaches to health care, financial regulation and energy, Obama should do the same in labor-management relationships. The experience with anti-discrimination legislation in the 1960s shows that the bipartisan approach is the most abiding.