Union organizers never, ever intimidate workers whom they are trying to recruit. Believe me? Great! I’ve got a bridge to sell you. Sound crass? Well, Big Labor and their allies in Congress are trying to sell America just such a proverbial bridge — the deceivingly named Employee Free Choice Act (pdf) (H.R. 800, S.1041), on which the Senate will soon vote.
The Democrats owe their majority in Congress in part to organized labor’s contributions — both cash in in-kind activism and get-out-the vote efforts. Now the unions want their pound of flesh, and no item is more important to them than the EFCA.
Why does Big Labor have so much riding on this bill? Because it would mandate an organizing method known as “card check” whenever a union requests it. Facing a decades-old membership decline in the private sector, unions have sought other organizing strategies, and “card check” has been among the most effective.
Traditionally, unions tried to organize workplaces through secret ballot elections supervised by the National Labor Relations Board. But in recent years unions have been winning only about half of the elections they hold, so now they’re trying to change the rules.
Card check circumvents secret ballot elections because it requires only that a majority of employees sign cards showing that they support union representation. Employees are often urged to sign cards publicly and in the presence of union organizers, which exposes them to high-pressure tactics which the secret ballot is designed to avoid.
Moreover, when an employer agrees to a card check procedure, it enters into a “neutrality” agreement with the union — which isn’t neutral at all. Under a neutrality agreement, an employer agrees not to campaign against union representation during a union organizing drive. Thus, the union enjoys an advantage because the employer agrees to remain silent.
But if card check “neutrality” is so lopsided in favor of the union, why would any employer agree to it? To stave off union attacks. To get employers to agree to a card check procedure, unions often resort to what is known as a “corporate campaign.”
Corporate campaigns are elaborate political and public relations campaigns that labor unions use to target a specific employer or group of employers. The union doesn’t simply picket the employer. Its tactics include feeding allegations of company wrongdoing to the news media, filing complaints with regulatory agencies, and enlisting allies, such as liberal church groups or environmental activists, to publicly denounce the company. The message to the employer is simple: Allow us to unionize your workforce or we will destroy your reputation.
Current federal law allows employers to insist on a secret ballot election. But the EFCA would do away with that
Senate Republicans may kill it through filibuster. President George W. Bush has threatened to veto the bill. But even if it goes down to defeat this time, expect it to come back in future Congresses — especially if in 2008 the Democrats gain the White House, seats in the Senate, or both.
We’ve seen this before — Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), the current bill’s sponsor, the bill was introduced unsuccessfully in the last Congress. He won’t take a “no” as final this time, either.
Ironically, Miller was one of 16 members of Congress who wrote (pdf) to a state labor arbitration board urging it to respect the secret ballot as “absolutely necessary in order to ensure that workers are not intimidated into voting for a union they might not otherwise choose.” Great, you say? Yes, except that the state in question is the State of Puebla — in Mexico. Apparently secret ballot elections are good enough for Mexican workers but not American ones.p>How does card-check work in practice? Consider the testimony (pdf) before House Education and Labor committee of Jennifer Jason, a former union organizer for the hospitality and textile union UNITE-HERE, who left that job in disgust at what she called other organizers’ “disgraceful practices”: