Union card check debate can be misleading

There’s a lot of misinformation going around on the so-called Employee Free Choice Act that has been introduced into both houses of congress.

On the one hand, the pro union side would have you believe the proposed legislation is designed to enhance freedom of choice for employees (I’m not so sure). On the other hand, the anti-union side, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, would have you believe that the unions are attempting to rob workers of their right to a secret ballot (well not entirely, maybe).

To compound all the misunderstanding a lot of liberal proponents who are not hourly employees who would likely be affected by all this are jumping on the bandwagon and pontificating on something they know not. They think they support the rights of workers, but they don’t wear the workers’ shoes.

While Wikipedia muffs it in its entry on card check, coming off as blatantly pro-union, it does a better job on its entry under Employee Free Choice Act. So if you want to get a synopsis of the whole issue read that.

But basically, as I understand it (and sometimes labor law is about as easy to read and understand as the baseball infield fly rule) as things stand now, a labor union can force a union vote if they can get 30 percent of the eligible employees to sign up for a card check. But employers can demand a secret ballot vote even if a union can get 100 percent to sign cards.

The new bill before congress would allow certification of a union without a formal vote if the union could get more than 50 percent to sign cards. “Card check” is the term bandied about by both sides.

As a side note, as I understand it, under current law a union can be decertified if 30 percent of the employees sign a petition calling for a decertification and then if a majority vote for decertification via secret ballot. All of this must be done under National Labor Relations Board oversight and rules. It can be complicated.

(Also, disputes over union votes, often involving eligibility of voters, drag on in the courts for years.)

So what does this mean to the common person? At first glance not much if you are not a union person. Of course you know that the more unionization the costlier products become, just ask General Motors.

My initial thought was chard check was an intimidating process. I mean you’re going to be approached by possibly a co-worker, someone who has more seniority, officially or unofficially, than you, or a union organizer who wants to imply you care nothing about your fellow workers if you don’t sign up.

I still think that way, but I also realize that no matter what the system, unless you eliminate unions altogether (and many would like to), there has to  be at least a posibility that a worker will will be asked to sign a petition, how else would a union request certification?

So on the card check, I think I won’t have an opinion, other than the fact that it does not interest me.

I did notice that the liberal blog The Daily Kos said something to the effect that card check was a secret ballot for employees. How so? Someone approaches me and asks me to sign a card. That is not much of a secret. It was suggested elsewhere that many employees would be tricked into thinking they were just showing a preference by signing a card, but that the actual certification of a union would require a further secret ballot vote. Not so. Under the proposed Employee Free Choice Act, 50 percent plus one sign up of cards and the union is in. The unions counter that there is still supposedly an option for workers to go the secret ballot route, but obviously the union organizers prefer the chard check route.

I have mixed emotions about unions. While I personally don’t prefer them, they may provide a kind of baseline for other workers.

The last trucking company I worked for had its union side and its non-union side. I worked on the non-union side. I was paid just as well as the union workers and I did not have to pay dues and I only had one set of bosses, the company, not the union and the company. But again, I have to believe that the union served as a baseline for wages and benefits. But under present economic conditions with a drastic downturn in freight, all that means nothing. Unions do not supply freight. (I’m using trucking as an example because that is where my applicable experience lies.)   

Unions at their best help workers get better pay and benefits and at their worst lead to overstaffing and inflexible work rules that hurt both productive workers and the employers who provide the wages. Unions sometimes force toleration of malingering in the workplace, and that hurts everyone (and I have witnessed this personally many times in many places).

For my money, employers who treat employees with respect (which by definition includes decent wages), demand a full day’s work for a day’s pay from everyone, need not fear unionization.

Right now I am not in the workforce. But if I were to return, card check would be a non-issue to me. I don’t plan on signing any union cards. I’ve always worked for the people who pay my wages.

(Copyright 2009)

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