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Posted by on Feb 26, 2009 in At TMV | 11 comments

Employee ‘Free Choice’ Act

I have previously posted about my concerns regarding the Employee Free Choice Act. One of my major concerns is the fact that, if the proposal is adopted, there would no longer be secret ballots to determine if a union would be organized  in the workplace or not.

The sponsors of the union would simply have to get a majority of workers to sign a card saying they want a union. Under such a system they would be free to do so publicly and to post names of who has and has not signed up for the union and would be free to apply any pressure they saw fit to get them to sign.

I’ve seen a couple ads that I think say it pretty well, one of which comes from a pretty liberal source.

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Copyright 2009 The Moderate Voice
  • elrod

    Actually, workers can opt for a secret ballot election if they want. The point is that the workers get to decide themselves. And that’s what has management worried; they are used to manipulating these secret ballot elections in their favor.

    The purpose of the Wagner Act of 1935 was to allow workers to form a union if they desire. Period. Subsequent attempts by management to intimidate workers has helped to make certification elections more difficult. (Unions have declined for other reasons – primarily the decline of manufacturing jobs. But employer intimidation has helped to break unions – and keep real wages down.) Under the Wagner Act, which established modern union law, it is up to workers – not management – to decide if they want a union.

    The only reason employers fear the Employee Free Choice Act is that they will no longer be able to use illegal tactics to intimidate workers who wish to form a union.

  • elrod

    BTW, the anti-EFCA ad is patently offensive. It basically shows a stereotypical Italian mobster trying to intimidate workers. Why don’t they just play the Godfather soundtrack in the background to drive the point home.

  • troosvelt_1858

    Actually although the law does allow for secret ballots under special circumstances it would effectively eliminate secret ballots.

    Under the current system the union organizers get 30% of the employees to ask for a union and then they have an election.

    Under the new law, the union organizers would not have to call for an election at the 30% mark, they would keep going until they got 50% plus one of the employees and then no election would be allowed. It would specifically be banned by law. So the concern is that union organizers would pressure people into signing.

    What I don’t get is what the problem with the current system is ?

    We get 30% of workers to say they want a union (which in theory could mean 70% don’t) and an election takes place. It is supervised by the NLRB and is totally secret. Why would a union and/or a union supporter care about a secret ballot if a majority of the workers support them ?

    And what illegal tactics ?

    And since when is GEORGE MCGOVERN a tool of the evil capitalist system ? Having him oppose EFCA is kind of like Ronald Reagan coming out and saying we shouldn’t cut taxes. It’s pretty significant.

    As to the ad, I’ve dealt with union guys just like that, they are not happy campers if you don’t support them 100% and in fact they tend to rough you up if you support the wrong candidates (and yes, it has happened to me personally).

  • Jcavhs

    The issue is that companies also do their own pressuring – and since they have the ability to fire workers they have more power than any union organizer. Wal-Mart has certainly done a lot to prevent their workers from organizing.

  • $199537

    elrod it seems to me it would be a lot easier to pressure someone to sign a card than influence what they do on a secret ballot. How exactly does management manipulate secret ballots?

  • elrod

    DaGoat,
    From the horse’s mouth (AFL-CIO):
    http://www.aflcio.org/joinaunion/voiceatwork/efca/brokensystem.cfm

    Unions aren’t perfect. Nor are they the panacea for what ails American workers. On occasion they defend mediocre workers and obstruct reasonable employer demands.

    But the general principle of forming a union is supposed to be: if workers want to form a union, they can form one. Employers are not supposed to have a say in that decision. If they do, the workers will feel intimidated and worry that they will lose their jobs just for bringing the subject up.

    • Dr J

      Elrod: “On occasion they defend mediocre workers and obstruct reasonable employer demands.”

      On occasion? Defending mediocre workers is unions’ stock in trade.

      I used to wonder why teachers’ unions, for example, fought so vehemently against schools’ efforts to dismiss underperforming teachers. Labor is their product, after all, so why don’t they stand up for its quality? Why aren’t the unions the *first* to weed out underperfomers?

      I finally figured it out. You can’t have a union-of-the-elite, where only 20% of the potential workforce is good enough to qualify, because the other 80% will oppose you. If you’re giving management a hard time too, you basically have no friends; politically it’s not a stable arrangement. Unions have to be champions of the mediocre.

  • $199537

    Thanks for the link and I see your point, but this bill seems to swing back too far the other way. I think secret ballots are a good thing. If 51% of workers signed the card, would the other workers be forced to join the union if they didn’t want to?

  • elrod

    Dr. J.,
    That depends on the industry. And while the teachers’ unions are the worst example of defending mediocrity, the sum total of the teachers’ union is not defense of mediocrity.
    Teacher pay is still too low – too low to attract top talent in many cases. Unions have helped push teacher pay as high as it is.

    The biggest issue is tenure. I think the tenure system needs to be reformed. Three years and in is a terrible system. I think there should be a graduated system where newer teachers get regular, tough evaluations and pass through certain levels of service before they get progressively more permanent tenure. Only the best should get full tenure.

    Universities work this way, to an extent.

    • Dr J

      Elrod, I agree teacher pay is too low. And although unions negotiate for more, they have ultimately held teachers’ salaries back by fighting any and every merit-based management policy. Taxpayers are leery of throwing more money at schools because they don’t believe they’re going to get anything for it.

      The tenure system and other things unions fight for to cement job security are similarly short-sighted. In our global economy with its streamlined capital flows, companies come and go much faster than they used to. The one-employer-for-life model is a dangerous relic, leaving employees vulnerable to disappearing companies and insolvent pension funds. The best job security a worker can have is a competitive, up-to-date skill set. You don’t maintain that if your union is shielding you from competitive pressure.

  • jabster

    DaGoat – Yes, if 50% plus one employee signed cards, every employee in the group would be stuck with a union. Unions actually don’t think secret ballots are all bad, because although a union could get in with cards, the employees couldn’t use cards to dump the union — that would take a secret ballot election, which couldn’t happen until the union had been around at least a year. And even beyond the card check part of the bill, there is something worse. Once a union got in, if the company and the union couldn’t agree on a contract within 90 days describing all terms and conditions of employment, a mediator would be appointed, and if there was still no contract 30 days after that (even if mediation hadn’t started yet), a federally appointed arbitrator would come in and write the entire contract, setting wages, benefits, hours, and so on, and that would stay in effect for 2 years. And until that 2-year contract ended, the employees would have no right to strike or have any right to get rid of the union. The law does not say who the arbitrator would be, whether he or she would need to consider or adopt anything the parties wanted or had already agreed on, or how many dollars the feds would need to spend to hire arbitrators to set wages, benefits, hours, and work rules for businesses all across the country. If the arbitrator wrote a lousy contract that ended up put the employer out of business, oh well — too bad for the employees and the employer. And this is the world the unions want to give us. Great plan, eh?

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