Card Check: A Leadership Dialogue on the House Floor

By March 13, 2009Labor Unions

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), the Republican whip, posed a series of questions to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) yesterday at the close of House business, asking about the Democratic majority’s legislative plans. Amid all the protocol-shaped questioning, Cantor was criticizing the House for failing to focus on jobs, a point Hoyer strenuously disputed.

Toward the end of the discussion, the talk turned to the Employee Free Choice Act. Since it represented actual floor debate on the principles motivating the legislation, the discussion seems worth highlighting.

We note that the Majority Leader maintains that the legislation will not destroy the secret ballot  in the workplace. To which we ask again: If the Employee Free Choice Act passes, under what realistic circumstances do you think a union would seek a federally supervised, secret-ballot election instead of using the card check process? Seriously. Do you really believe a union would ever choose an election instead of card check? (And remember, that means going to an election with signature cards from 30 to 50 percent of the employees. Once organizers cross the 50 percent threshold, there is no election permitted — The union is recognized.)

From The Congressional Record, March 12, 2008, Page H3378:

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman. Mr. Speaker, I know that the gentleman is aware, as all of us are, about the tremendous job losses that we have experienced in America of late, 650,000 plus jobs just last month.

There is an announcement yesterday that we all read about, that the card check bill was introduced. Along with that introduction, there was a new nonpartisan study that was published that predicts that passage of card check legislation will result in the immediate loss of 600,000 jobs.

So I would ask the gentleman, number one, when he expects to bring that card check bill to the floor, and if, in the interim, if he is considering that if the Senate is to act, and we are to act in these economic times, why would we be doing that if we know, through nonpartisan studies issued, that it’s a job killer? Why would we be bringing that to the floor?

I yield further to the gentleman.

Mr. HOYER. I thank the gentleman for yielding. First of all, let me respond. We don’t know that. Somebody reported that. We don’t know that at all and, very frankly, we don’t accept that figure. We don’t accept the figure that we will, in fact, lose jobs.

We on this side of the aisle feel very strongly that the working men and women in this country have the right under law to organize and to bargain collectively for wages and benefits and working conditions. We think that is inherent in the rights, in the free market.

Very frankly, I would tell my friend that I have traveled, as he has, in many parts of the world, and rarely have I seen a successful democracy that didn’t have a free trade union movement. So we feel very strongly about that. We feel very strongly about the right to organize, and that means that it is the employee’s choice of how to organize.

Now, having said all that, let me also say that we have observed that there has been, in many ways, a relationship between the decline in union membership and a decline in the buying power of the American worker.

And the greatest disparity between what average workers make and what the bosses make now exist in our country to a greater extent than any other place in the world. We think that’s a problem.

Consumerism is what drives this economy. Consumerism is down, incomes have been frozen, and you see, in my opinion, some of that result.

I don’t, by any stretch of the imagination, want to say that the reason that we are in the decline that we are in today, and facing the challenge that we are today, is a direct result of the fact that union membership is down.

But, certainly, I believe that one of the results is the reduction in the buying power of average Americans in this country.

Now, having said that, we passed this bill. We passed it pretty handily. We passed it in the last Congress, and it’s our expectation that the Senate is going to be dealing with this legislation.

They have not yet considered it; and it is my belief that we want to see whether they can pass it. We believe they can.

We are going to be interested in what action they take.

Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman.

For the record, any democracy has also in it the elections that afford one the right to a private or secret ballot, which this bill completely takes away from the workers of this country.

Mr. HOYER. Will the gentleman yield?

Mr. CANTOR. Not yet, Mr. Speaker. I would say again that our economy is not just built on consumerism, our economy is built on investments and, frankly, the rebuilding of this economy will take place with job creation. And if we know that card check is a jobkiller, folks across this country have got to be scratching their heads right now, wondering what in the world is Washington doing passing a piece of legislation that has been proven to kill jobs, not promote jobs.

Mr. HOYER. Let me say that, as I said before, we don’t believe it’s a jobkiller, number one. But, number two, the gentleman and I have a disagreement factually as to what the bill does. We don’t believe this kills the right of the employees to have a free election at all. Period.

We believe in fact the employee has that choice. The employee has the absolute right to respond, ‘‘No, I don’t want to sign your card. Let’s have an election. And I will sign it for that purpose, and that purpose only, to give you the 30 percent you need to get the election.’’

I think I’m right on 30 percent. But, in any event, we believe this is the employees’ choice of how they want to organize, not the employer’s choice.

So we are not and did not by passage of this legislation take away from the employees the right to have an election if they so choose.

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