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The Employee No Choice Act

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House Bill 471
Rep. Doc Anderson, R-Waco

It would be quite a feat to make Texas even more hostile to labor unions, but Rep. Doc Anderson is giving it a shot.

The Waco Republican’s House Bill 471 would limit the ways employees can organize a union in Texas. Under current federal labor law, employees form a union in one of two ways. One option is a secret-ballot election run by the National Labor Relations Board. The other route is called “majority sign-up” in which if 50 percent or more of a company’s employees wish to form a union, they can simply sign authorization cards and their employer can choose to bypass the election process and recognize the union. Anderson’s bill would eliminate the majority sign-up option in Texas.

“At this point forward, if anyone wants to go through this process to unionize a shop they would have to do it the way we’ve been doing it for years, and that’s the secret ballot,” Anderson said.

The lawmaker wants to do away with majority sign-up because, he says, the process opens the door to workers intimidating other workers into joining the union.

That reasoning seems backward to Rick Levy of the AFL-CIO. “What studies have repeatedly shown is that it’s the employers that possess the power to intimidate,” he said. The bill “raises this unfounded fear of employees being the victim of their coworkers who are trying to build a better workplace.”

Some members of Congress apparently agree with Levy. Congress is considering the Employee Free Choice Act, which would essentially make majority sign-up the primary way to form a union. Though it hasn’t passed the U.S. Congress, it’s gaining traction. Anderson wants to make sure the federal government gets the message that Texas wants no part of that.

Levy said Anderson’s bill would invite a lawsuit from the federal government should it pass. In mid-January, the National Labor Relations Board threatened to sue states that passed legislation similar to Anderson’s. “This is an ideological attack on unions and collective bargaining that has no practical impact,” Levy said.

Alexa Garcia-Ditta is an Observer reporter (and former intern) covering women's health, reproductive health and health care access across the Lone Star State. Before joining the Observer, she was a staff news writer at the San Antonio Current. She holds an MA in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and BA in journalism and Spanish from UT-Arlington, where she worked for three years on her college newspaper. After graduate school, she dipped her toe in public policy communications at the Center for Public Policy Priorities. When she's not at work, she's probably training for her next marathon.