Saturday, September 12, 2009

Employee Free Choice Act: Card Check

Unions and most Democrats want to replace the current National Labor Relations Board process by which employees of a company can unionize with Card Check.

The current method for workers to form a union in a particular workplace in the United States is a sign-up then an election process. In that, a petition or an authorization card with the signatures of at least 30% of the employees requesting a union is submitted to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), who then verifies and orders a secret ballot election. If over 50% of the employees based on the secret ballot elect to form a union then the NLRB will order the employer to recognize the union. Two exceptions exist. If over 50% of the employees sign an authorization card requesting a union, the employer can voluntarily choose to waive the secret ballot election process and just recognize the union. The other exception is a last resort, which allows the NLRB to order an employer to recognize a union if over 50% have signed cards if the employer has engaged in unfair labor practices that make a fair election unlikely.

Under the proposed Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), if the NLRB verifies that over 50% of the employees signed authorization cards, the secret ballot election is bypassed and a union is automatically formed without requiring a secret ballot election. Under The EFCA, if over 30% and fewer than 50% of employees sign a petition or authorization cards, the NLRB would still order a secret ballot election for union representation. In other words, the current threshold to have a secret ballot election is signatures from 30% of employees. The EFCA would keep that threshold, but make a new threshold of signatures from 50% + 1 of employees to bypass the secret ballot election and automatically be unionized. Therefore a petition signature would have the same weight as a "yes" vote in a secret ballot election.

I personally believe that employee bargaining through unionization is often necessary to ensure that employees are treated fairly. I also believe that some unions abuse their power almost as much as the employers did prior to unionization and employee protection laws. Card Check would eliminate the need for a secret ballot if more than 50% of the employees sign a public petition or authorization cards.

I used to belong to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. I had no reason to believe that the IBEW was a corrupt organization that bargained unfairly. However, I did witness and was often affected by abuses by the local union leadership of both employees and union members. Local unions leaders and members alike use intimidation to contol how their membership votes. A union member that does not agree with the politics of the union leadership can find himself unemployed or working on jobs with the least hours and the worst conditions.

Later, I worked 30 years for a Fortune 100 company that owned dozens of manufacturing facilities and roughly half of those facilities are unionized. I saw abused by both the local union members and some of the plant managers. I was never aware of abuses originating within the senior management of the corporation. I was aware of intimidation of employees by employees when union certification or decertification was to be voted on.

Therefore, removing the requirement for a secret ballot, except when the NLRB has proof of unfair employer practices that could impact a secret ballot, puts too much power in the hands of the unionizers and the employees, who favor unionization, who can and, in my opinion, often will intimidate employees who oppose unionzation or are undecided about unionization. The secret ballot is fair to both the employees and the employer. It protects the employees from harassment by either the unionizers or the employer.

What is your opinion?

No comments: