Card Check Stops Employers from Killing You

By April 6, 2008Labor Unions

An April 2nd hearing by the Labor/HHS subcommittee of Senate Appropriations obstensibly on the National Labor Relations Board’s oversight of union elections became yet another platform for supporters of the Employee Free Choice Act to make the case for eliminating the secret ballot in the workplace — all in the name of “social justice.” Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) was upfront about his views in opening the hearing.

I will openly tell you that I’m a supporter of the Employee Free Choice Act. It is clear to me that in order to rebuild economic security for the middle class in America, we must rebuild strong and vibrant unions; and to rebuild strong unions, we must reduce the unfair barriers to union organizing.

In his testimony, University of Oregon political scientist Gordon Lafer — whom union groups have hired in the past — argued using the kind of morally objectionable terms heard far too often from labor activists.

[Even] Saddam Hussein had secret ballots. Indeed, history is full of dictatorial regimes that have remained in power despite the use of secret ballot elections. How do they do it? Through things such as threatening the livelihoods of opponents; denying them access to the media; and forcing all voters to attend propaganda rallies for the ruling party. Our government has rightly condemned these votes as “sham elections.”

Unfortunately, the very standards that we insist on as minimal guarantors of democracy in other countries is violated by the NLRB system. With the exception of the secret ballot – and, as I will discuss later, there is no truly secret ballot in NLRB elections–every other aspect of NLRB elections fails to meet American standards defining “free and fair” elections.

Understand? U.S. employers are the equivalent of Saddam Hussein; only the elimination of the secret ballot in the workplace will prevent their brutalizing employees.

NLRB Chairman Peter Schaumber provided countless statistics from 2007 union elections that debunk this kind of ugly rhetoric. Schaumber’s testimony noted that 93 percent of all elections were conducted within 56 days of petitioning, and in fact, unions are enjoying fair success in organizing workplaces.

The results of elections held in FY 2007 show that the union was successful a majority of the time. Employees chose a collective bargaining representative in 59.2 percent% of RC elections [certification], 35.1% of RD elections [decertification], and 33.3% of RM elections [employer called], for an overall union success rate of 50.4 percent. That rate has increased in the first five months of FY 2008.

Schaumber also details the consistent and successful resolution of complaints.

The testimony of John N. Raudabaugh, a former NLRB member now a partner with Baker & McKenzie, was also a fact-full refutation of arguments leveled against the board, which he explains are part of a strategy by organized labor to enact the Employee Free Choice Act.

Driving the quest for an “over the shoulder/in-your-face” card-based alternative to the secret ballot is organized labor’s longstanding, institutional angst — declining union density, a labor economist’s measure of success or failure in organized labor’s ability to gain representational rights. Private sector union density has steadily declined from a high of 34 percent in 1954. In 2007, organized labor represented 7.5 percent of the private sector workforce, up from 7.4 percent in 2006.

We commend Raudabaugh’s full testimony as an excellent summary of the fallacies behind the drive for card-check. We also also appreciate it being fairly argued, avoiding the kind of obloquy favored by Lafer and his fellow union activists.

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