Organized labor was perhaps the biggest winner of last November’s congressional election. The Democratic leadership has moved quickly to begin paying off its campaign debt.
Observes Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Committee: Nancy Pelosi “knows union political operatives are largely if not primarily responsible for making her speaker, and union officials want votes on card check.” Thus, the House has passed, and the Senate will soon consider, legislation to replace elections with the so-called “card check” process, which would enable labor organizers to intimidate their way to union recognition.
That’s not how labor activists put it, of course. But they want to drop today’s system, which requires a secret ballot election whenever 30 percent of workers sign a card supporting a union, with automatic recognition if 50 percent-plus-one workers sign a card.
Supporters of the legislation say they want to drop the inconvenient step of representational elections to prevent employer intimidation, though evidence of systemic problems is scant. In fact, a secret ballot makes retaliation against rank-and-file workers well nigh impossible. And the National Labor Relations Board reports few cases — under two percent — in which vocal union organizers are fired.
Actually, the fact that secret ballot elections limit the opportunities for abuse is the primary reason why organized labor insists on elections before a union can be decertified. In a 1998 case the AFL-CIO and two individual unions cited the U.S. Supreme Court in asserting “that a representation election ‘is a solemn…occasion, conducted under safeguards to voluntary choice.’” Indeed, the unions added, the “representation election system provides the surest means of avoiding decisions which are ‘the result of group pressures and not individual decision.’”
Quite true. Thus, elections cannot be spared when workers want out of a union. But organized labor has a different view of “group pressures” deployed as part of an official organizing campaign.
INDEED, UNIONS ASSIDUOUSLY ATTEMPT to undermine “individual decision” through “group pressures.” Labor activists regularly intimidate workers into signing cards and supporting unionization. Hence the enthusiasm for “card check” union recognition.
For instance, Mike Ivey, a Materials Handler for the Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation in Gaffney, South Carolina, went to the National Right Work Legal Defense Foundation in response to pressure from the United Auto Workers. He pointed to conscious misrepresentations by union organizers: “Employees are told at off-site meetings that signing a card only certifies that they attended a meeting” and are offered t-shirts for signing, without being told “that these cards are a legally binding document.”
Recalcitrant workers are called and visited at home multiple times. Indeed, Ivey complains: “In the work place, the employees running the organizing campaign for the UAW are relentless in trying to get the employees to sign union cards. This has created a hostile work environment,” a situation which, if caused by the employer, would result in a lawsuit.
Karen M. Mayhew, an employee of Kaiser Permanente in Portland, Oregon, tells a similar tale of fraud and abuse, through which she and her fellow workers, also assisted by NRWLDF, were able to get the union decertified because of its misbehavior. The cards, said labor organizers, merely indicated interest in receiving more information. She adds: “Throughout this whole ordeal, my colleagues and I were subjected to badgering and immense peer pressure.”
As long as unions claim that intimidation is not their official policy — and are smart enough to avoid creating any written evidence to the contrary — workers have little recourse. In a 1996 case a majority of National Labor Relations Board commissioners held that “alleged threats of violence, even when made in the course of card solicitation, cannot be construed by any reasonable person as representing ‘purported union policies.’”
In that case, a union activist went up to another employee and, reported the NLRB, “allegedly stated that the employee had better sign a card because if she did not, the Union would come and get her children and it would also slash her car tires.” Maybe the threat was unauthorized, but if the union is not held responsible for intimidation like this, what will stop future organizers from making similar threats, especially when a signed card is so much more valuable — bringing activists closer to recognition, and not just an election which they might lose?
Which ultimately is why organized labor desires card check recognition. It is a lot easier to browbeat 50 percent plus one of the employees to publicly sign a card than to get the same number to vote for the union in a secret ballot. Indeed, a 1989 AFL-CIO organizing survey concluded: “It is not until the union obtains signatures from 75% or more of the unit that the union has more than a 50% chance of winning the election.”
First, some workers sign who have been fooled into thinking that the card has no legal effect. Second, some employees sign to avoid union pressure, including threats against their children. Third, a number of workers change their minds when they hear both sides of the argument leading up to the election.
No wonder Bruce Raynor of UNITE HERE says simply: “There’s no need to subject the workers to an election.” The union wants to generously choose for them.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?