Card Check: Standing on Principle Expediency

By September 17, 2007General

With the anti-democratic Employee Free Choice Act stalled for the year, organized labor has moved its efforts to individual states. In California, for example, the unions have been pushing SB 180. Just like the federal “card check” legislation, this bill would eliminate secret-ballot elections when determining whether to join a union, in this case for agricultural workers. In its place would be the very public process of signing cards, a process that invites intimidation until the magic 50 percent plus 1 figure is reached.

As Bret Jacobson of Labor Pains points out in this post, this is a complete reversal of one of the founding principles of the United Farm Workers. From the Los Angeles Times:

In the 1970s, United Farm Workers founder Cesar E. Chavez fought in dusty fields and the halls of government to give agricultural laborers the right to cast secret ballots to form unions at California’s farms, ranches and vineyards.

Now, those who came after Chavez want to change the rules, and that has farmers and business groups up in arms.

What an extraordinarily cynical move, but then, the UFW is dying and desperate. The Department of Labor reports that the UFW’s membership has plunged to 5,500 in 2006 from 26,000 in the 1990s.

The bill is before Governor Schwarzeneger, who is facing great pressure to veto the legislation. In any case, principle should trump politics. That the UFW is abandoning one of its founding bases is bad enough, but it’s simply wrong to twist the arms of farmworkers — or anybody — to force them into joining a group they do not want to represent them. And intimidation will follow the enactment of card check, you can be sure.

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