One big labor law change anticipated in the Barack administration is enactment of the so-called Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), but like the Holy Roman Empire, which was neither holy, Roman nor an empire, does the EFCA really embody freedom and choice? For those on the business side of things–company owners and managers, et al.–the answer is no: The unions will just coerce employees into signing off on a "card check" system, and then the union–or a pro-union arbitrator–will jam a contract down the company’s throat, one that may force it to cut workers, relocate or close.

On the union side, the picture is much different: Finally, we’ll be able to organize workers without the intimidation, threats, harassments and outright firing of union reps that companies typically employ prior to a secret-ballot unionization vote, as union organizers might phrase it. I’ve read horror stories from both sides of the issue–tales of union thugs’ coercing workers into signing off on the unionization cards, and anecdotes of employers’ threatening to close if there’s a union and firing the union’s employee-organizers on trumped-up charges. So, where does this leave us?

If EFCA passes, it will obviously be much easier to get 50-percent-plus-one-employee card signings and subsequent unionization, but will it also prompt an adverse reaction from employers, such as layoffs, outsourcing, relocating and/or closing down? The National Chamber of Commerce has called the EFCA "Armageddon." EPCA probably won’t be that deleterious in its effects, but it could.

The interesting thing here is that the Wagner Act of 1935, which gave the labor unions broader rights to organize workplaces, contained provisions for both secret ballots and card checks. Unionization could be accomplished through either means, but the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act removed the card check provision.

Now card check is back to rear its ugly head–or beautiful face–once again. Can the nation’s businesses and GOP stop this dead in its tracks? Should they? Therein lies the $64,000 question. (I probably should update that to the "$64-billion question" in light of all the current bailouts, stimulus packages and whatevers.)