Card Check: Small Employers, Big Employers Agree

By March 1, 2009Labor Unions

Mickey Kaus, a reform-minded Democrat, is one of the few almost-mainstream-media giving the Employee Free Choice Act an extended, serious examination. After attending a public discussion on the legislation, he writes at Kausfiles, “Card Check” Not as Bad as Thought! It’s Worse.”

The arbitration parts of the card check bill are so vaguely drawn that nobody knows who the arbitrators will be. The job appears to be delegated entirely to the Federal Mediation Service. The FMS might decide to use its own employees. It might decide to use arbitrators from the private sector selected along more traditional lines. The two breakfast debaters (Prof. Richard Epstein and attorney Anthony Segall) did seem to agree that, since thousands of arbitrators might quickly be needed for the expected explosion of mandatory arbitration, it’s unlikely they would all be newly hired GS-12s. But they don’t know.


I have been worried that big business would sell out small business in the coming negotiations on a “compromise,” watered-down “card check” bill that everyone expects. Prof. Epstein suggested that, if anything, big business is more terrified of the arbitration provisions than small business–simply because big businesses are more complicated and therefore they have a lot more to lose if an unfamiliar arbitrator suddenly steps in and starts messing around and running things. … P.S.: But doesn’t that suggest another possible sell out, in which the arbitration provisions of “card check” get dropped while the more notorious anti-secret ballot provisions stay in? I don’t know. If you are Wal-Mart or Toyota I would think you’d be threatened by both provisions.

Judging from the reaction of NAM members, there’s nothing in the when-will-it-be-introduced? bill to invite compromise of any sort, but small businesses are especially concerned about the card check provisions. If you’re a company with 10 or 20 employees, union organizers could hit the softball team’s game on Wednesday and you could be facing a new union by Monday — with pressure on to get that new contract in place within four months or have an arbitrator set your wages and benefits for two years. In a highly competitive industry, the increased costs could simply kill the company.

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