Card Check: Hanging Up on One-Sided Debates

By April 6, 2007Labor Unions

An interesting strategy has emerged in some labor disputes around the country, as unions seek to organize large employers. The union conducts a card-check campaign, signs up a good number employees, and then urges the company to remain “neutral.” By neutral, they mean don’t request an FLRB-supervised election and, really, try not to represent your company’s point of view during this process. In fact, why don’t you just butt out.

Case in point: Verizon Business in New York and Massachusetts. Diana Furchtgott-Roth of the Hudson Institute lays out the circumstances in a New York Sun op-ed today.

The New York City comptroller, William Thompson Jr., together with two New York Democratic representatives, Jerrold Nadler and Anthony Weiner, has affirmed his support for the bill [the Employee Free Choice Act] and called on Verizon’s chief executive officer, Ivan Seidenberg, to allow Verizon Business’s eligible work force to become unionized by card check.

But existing contracts between unions and sister company Verizon Telecom state that unionization of any workers employed by companies acquired by Verizon, such as Verizon Business, would be governed by private ballot elections. Mr. Seidenberg therefore relayed to the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers the decision of Verizon Business not to recognize the card check.

What is strange is that New York members of Congress are calling on Mr. Seidenberg to break legally binding contracts. In addition, Senator Kerry and Reps. Stephen Lynch and John Tierney, all Massachusetts Democrats, say they checked the count of the open voting cards of those union-targeted Verizon Business workers and that 57% voted for union representation.

But politicians have no way of knowing whether the cards are genuine, or how many workers are in these groups to calculate that percentage. They are simply grateful for labor’s help in regaining Congress, and willing to repay the debt by setting themselves up as verifiers of illegal elections.

Yeah, that’s the point. For the politicians and labor bosses alike, process, fairness and the privacy of ballots can go hang as long as the end result is achieved — unionization, more union dues and more campaign contributions. By passage of the dishonestly named Employee Free Choice Act, they hope to institutionalize via statute this same rigged game.

Similar political games are under way in North Carolina, where Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards is pressuring Smithfield Foods to “stay neutral” in a unionization campaign because it’s improper for the company to make its case because of past labor violations. Ever. Just shut up.

Edwards is acting out of informed self-interest, trying to cement his edge in the Democratic presidential races as labor’s go-to-guy, with access to money and campaign workers. The union bosses in North Carolina and New York share those interests, along with wanting to live the highlife. Furchtgott-Roth:

In 2006, the international president of the IBEW, Edwin Hill, received $339,099 in disbursements, and that union’s international secretary-treasurer, Jon Walters, received $317,574. Golf trips can add up too. In 2006, various branches of the IBEW listed spending on their LM-2 forms that totaled $53,030 for golf outings.

Employees of Verizon Business should be wary of Mr. Kennedy’s misnamed bill [S. 1041]. It would strip them of the right to vote in private, and it might require them to join a union and start paying dues. As well as losing their fundamental right to privacy and being forced to join unions, they risk losing part of their paychecks to the pockets — and golf trips — of union officials.


UPDATE (10:50 a.m.) The ILWU is running the same sort of psy-ops campaign against Blue Diamond (union agitprop here), trying to bully the company (by pressuring its wholesale customers) into staying “neutral” during the unionization drive, i.e., to just let them organize. Funny now “neutral” translates into “we win.”