I recently spoke with Richard Alaniz, a senior partner with Alaniz & Schraeder, a Houston-based a labor and employment law firm. Alaniz will be conducting a seminar about recent changes in employment and labor laws at the 2009 International Roofing Expo (IRE).

I recently spoke with Richard Alaniz, a senior partner with Alaniz & Schraeder, a Houston-based a labor and employment law firm. Alaniz will be conducting a seminar about recent changes in employment and labor laws at the 2009 International Roofing Expo (IRE).

Alaniz gave me a preview of some of the recent and pending legislation he plans to cover, including the Employee Free Choice Act, which is currently pending in Congress. Alaniz called it “the highest legislative priority for unions,” and noted that the act “rewrites labor laws in effect since 1935.”

He noted that the act does away with a secret ballot for union elections and allows workers to fill out authorization cards indicating they support unionization. It requires a simple majority of workers to establish a union presence, and there is no time limit for amassing the necessary number of cards. Cards can be passed out at meetings, noted Alaniz, where peer pressure could be an obvious factor. The law mandates that after a union is recognized, they can go to mediation or binding arbitration to mandate a two-year contract.

Unions have fallen from 35 percent of the workforce to 7.4 percent, according to Alaniz, but this legislation gives union organizers two huge advantages: avoiding union elections and compelling the initial contract.
The legislation has “teeth” in the form of a $20,000 fine for employer interference and treble damages if a worker is improperly fired. “It’s a major rewrite of traditional labor laws in this country,” Alaniz said. “People in organized labor I’ve talked with think it will rejuvenate them. They think it will take them from 7.4 percent to 20, 25 percent.”

There is no doubt that this is a bill business owners should keep an eye on. For more information, you can attend Alaniz’s seminar, which will be held on Feb. 5 from 7:45 a.m.-9:15 a.m. at the IRE. The show will be held at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center Feb. 3-5, 2009. For more information about the show, visit www.theroofingexpo.com.