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Proposed labor law debated

April 11, 2009|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- The controversy surrounding the Employee Free Choice Act took center stage during an Eggs and Issues breakfast Thursday at Duffy's on Potomac in downtown Hagerstown.

The Employee Free Choice Act, which if passed by Congress would allow labor unions to organize more easily by amending the National Labor Relations Act, was debated during the breakfast by Fred D. Mason Jr., president of the Maryland State and District of Columbia AFL-CIO, and Harvard-educated attorney Stephen D. Shawe of Shawe Rosenthal LLP, a Baltimore legal firm.

Shawe, who argued against the Employee Free Choice Act, said the pending legislation would deny employees the right to hold a secret ballot election when deciding on whether to install a union in the workplace. If the act passes, all unions would have to do to organize would be to get the signatures of "50 percent plus 1" of the workers, he said.

"The point of the statute isn't to have votes," Shawe said. "The point of the statute is to have no votes."

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Mason said unions aren't allowed on company property to talk with workers during the organization process. As a result, he said, employers have a better chance to sway an election by bombarding the workers with propaganda, such as saying the company would fold if a union came to power.

Mason said he believed the Employee Free Choice Act would be passed into law because the status quo is unacceptable.

Shawe said there are enough senators who oppose the legislation to hold a successful filibuster.

"It is unlikely ... it would pass in its current form," he said.

The debate was sponsored by Tower Bank and the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce.

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