« Great News | Main | The Open Road to Serfdom »

December 09, 2008

Comments

This is classic fallacy argumentation. The existence of an alleged problem (in this case unfair elections) does not suggest that the proposed solution is a good one.

If Democrats have a problem with the election procedure, you control Congress and the Presidency so fix it. Taking away the secret ballot is not fixing it, it is taking away a very important protection. There is a reason elections tend to be secret ballot, and if you can't articulate reasons to get rid of it *that are pertinent TO SECRET BALLOT* you shouldn't be getting rid of it.

You can't complain that a Bush controlled NLRB won't enforce the rules anymore (the previous justification for taking away the secret ballot).

You can make all sorts of changes in the labor rules that aren't naked power grabs that violate the basic way elections work. Try those. Hell, THINK about those.

the article -- unwittingly -- presents a very pro-business perspective by glossing over the elections point.

Nothing unwitting about it at all. The Washington Post has been hostile to unions across the board for decades -- at the management level in relationto the paper's own unions, on the editorial page, and in the news coverage.

I remember trying to get coverage for a labor event in DC back in the early 1980s; the reporters assigned to the labor beat were unbelievably cynical and dismissive of any kind of activism, and bought completely into corporate arguments on the issues concerned.

A commenter at Digby's blog made the excellent suggestion that EFCA supporters refer to current union elections as what they are: company elections. EFCA provides for secret-ballot elections if 30% of the workers choose it. So EFCA supports worker choice; in the status quo, everything is up to the companies.

Anti-EFCA lobbying is designed to prevent unionization; the shrieking about secret ballots is designed to obscure the actual situation of company harassment, threats, and firings of workers with phantoms of worker-on-worker intimidation.

The existence of an alleged problem

Uh, "alleged"? You're not in court. The obstacles that employers place in the way of employees from forming unions to represent them as a group to their employers, are quite thoroughly documented. Have been for over a century.

The benefits of unionization for employees are clear and well-documented. The notion that unions will somehow try to strong-arm employees is one of the classic conservative memes against unions: the idea that working people can't trust each other, they can only trust their employers, is used to manipulate employees in all sorts of ways.

Really, Sebastian, if you want to write something on how Unions Is Teh Bad, why don't you?

Sebastian: Ontario has had card check for 60 years. If card check actually resulted in intimidation of workers who don't sign cards by pro-union workers or union reps, there'd be some evidence of it there.

If you can't provide any, then you'll have to retreat to the heart of your actual position: against unionization generally.

Card check, especially with EFCA's 30% provisions for worker election, does indeed solve the problems with today's company elections.

I say 'alleged' because unions allege it every single time they have an unsuccessful drive, both when the allegation is appropriate and when it is not.

And again, the existence of a problem is not an argument for any old proposal. You didn't accept that with 9/11 and security theater, or 'increased security' and wiretapping and you shouldn't accept it now.

Card check attacks the wrong person's rights in search of the remedy. It says that the problem is that COMPANIES abuse the union election process THEREFORE we will take away the WORKER'S normal election rights.

That makes no sense.

I say 'alleged' because unions allege it every single time they have an unsuccessful drive, both when the allegation is appropriate and when it is not.

When is it ever appropriate for employers to intimidate their employees into giving up their right to form a union? Do tell.

And again, the existence of a problem is not an argument for any old proposal.

I doubt if employers would care for any proposal that was effective in having employees able to form a union against the wishes of their employer.

It says that the problem is that COMPANIES abuse the union election process THEREFORE we will take away the WORKER'S normal election rights.

Well, fine, Sebastian. How do you propose to have the secret ballot be workable in an immediate way so that employers can't stop employees from joining a union and forcing their employer to recognize it?

BTW, while we are talking about facts:

Zogby International Survey Results

Question 12: Do you believe workers should have the right or should not have the right to vote on whether they wish to belong to a union? Yes 84%

Question 13: I’m going to describe two ways that workers might be asked to decide if they want to become part of a union and ask you which of the two ways is most fair. In the first way, a union organizer would ask workers to sign their name on a card if they wanted to be part of a union. The worker would sign his or her name on the card if he or she wanted a union, or the worker would tell the union organizer he or she would not sign the card if he or she did not want a union. In the second way, the government would hold an election in the workplace where every worker would get to vote by secret ballot whether he or she wanted a union. Which way is more fair?

53% said more fair.

14. Currently, the government is responsible for holding secret-ballot elections for workers who are deciding whether to form a union, and for making sure workers can cast their votes in a fair and impartial manner. Do you agree or disagree that the current secret-ballot process is fair?

71% said Agree

15. Do you agree or disagree that stronger laws are needed to protect the existing secret-ballot election process and to make sure workers can make their decisions about union membership in private, without the union, their employer or anyone else knowing how they vote?

63% Agree

17. Should Congress keep the existing secret-ballot election process for union membership, or should Congress replace it with another process that is less private?

78% said keep the existing secret-ballot.

Please note that this is a survey of people who are *already in unions*.

"Well, fine, Sebastian. How do you propose to have the secret ballot be workable in an immediate way so that employers can't stop employees from joining a union and forcing their employer to recognize it?"

Shorten the election procedure to something very manageable (say 2 weeks) after some percentage of the workers express an interest through whatever legitimate channels.

More vigorously prosecute with CRIMINAL penalties actual cases of punitive firing or illegal tampering with the election.

Essentially you can do all sorts of things to deal with THE COMPANY which don't involve attacking the rights of THE WORKERS. You'd think a union could understand that distinction. The fact that they don't is suggestive...

Imagine, for instance, a Senate race (let's say Minnesota) where only Al Franken was allowed to campaign, and where Franken could randomly fire Coleman's campaign managers. Not much of a fair campaign, right?

How about we be clear about what is already a violation of law. You make it sound like the random firing of an employee exercising his right to organize is protected under current law.

The benefits of unionization for employees are clear and well-documented. The notion that unions will somehow try to strong-arm employees is one of the classic conservative memes against unions:

No doubt that there abuses on both sides. But do you really think that unions DON'T pressure holdouts? What was it the UAW did in the Freightliner case a few years back, post the name of the anti-union employee along with his telephone number and address and a map to his house? And that this won't increase when they know exactly who is against unionization?

It seems to me one of the big pushes for changes is the simple fact that unionization is down so much in the U.S. The blame goes on the current process rather than other factors which seem to be in play. Frex, the gov't over the past many years has legislated in areas that unions traditionally trump as one of the benefits of unionizing (labor safety standards, health care reform, medical leave, etc.). If universal health care comes in, there will be another thing that unions won't be able to use to sell their services.

And I don't see how in the world anyone could believe that card check is going to reflect worker's attitudes towards unionization in any meaningful way. Then again, maybe we could let the company card check for non-unionization at the same time and have the non-unionization provision last for a minimum two years . . .

seb - in the abstract, all that sounds fine. but you're not taking any "right" away, you're just letting the union decide.

more precisely, unions currently can organize by either election or card check. however, employers only have to recognize elections. if employees want elections, they can still have them. the point though is that EFCA gives EMPLOYEES rather than EMPLOYERS the final decision on how procedurally a union should be recognized. there's no 'taking away" a right.

now, if elections would start 2 days after a petition and the employer had to be silent, then fine. but employer-run elections are just never going to work.

and there is basically no evidence of union coercion, for several reasons. most obviously, unions don't control people's paycheck and working conditions (employers do). also, the union has an incentive to keep people happy - you can disband a union in a year.

like i said, you may like or dislike unions. but the election process is a complete sham -- and it probably can't be reformed.

What was it the UAW did in the Freightliner case a few years back, post the name of the anti-union employee along with his telephone number and address and a map to his house?

Cite?

And that this won't increase when they know exactly who is against unionization?

If a union intimidates employees who refuse to join the union, that is illegal, bc. It's already illegal. Actual, documented cases of illegal intimidation can actually have something done about them.

Employers pretending a fake concern for employees when (and only when) they don't join the union, when their not joining the union primarily benefits their employers, is old hat.

Card check attacks the wrong person's rights in search of the remedy. It says that the problem is that COMPANIES abuse the union election process THEREFORE we will take away the WORKER'S normal election rights.

That makes no sense.

This is an odd way to view it.

I would think the appropriate way to look at it is that workers get MORE rights, namely the right to form a union with majority sign up.

Alleged union coercion is basically a fantasy as well given the incentives unions have to remain in employees' good graces

That has not been my experience. I’ve experience union coercion in the job interview process; forget about taking the job and working there… My wife also routinely dealt with union coercion when she worked as a non-union employee at colleges that had a union. It is certainly no fantasy. If you want to make the case that there are more documented incidents of employer coercion than union coercion I’m open to that (but you’d also have to address the issue that it is far more unlikely for employees to report coercion by co-workers), but “basically a fantasy” is not going to sell.

If the majority of employees really want a union I have no problem with that, so long as a) I don’t lose the secret ballot process; b) I don’t have to be one of the 30% to come forward publicly or have to deal with organizing 30% to come forward to request a secret ballot to decertify the union; c) I’m not forced to join the union based on 51% signing the card. “Free Choice” my behind.

If employer coercion is a problem then deal with that. You want to strengthen the penalties for employer coercion? You have my support. Just don’t try to force a union down my throat. This is nothing more than Democrats paying back the unions for millions and millions of dollars of support. Union membership has drastically declined. Instead of addressing reasons why that might be, it’s easier to use what union dues you have left to support Democrats who will in turn advance legislation to make it easier to force unions on employees.

And it doesn’t seem to be about the employees, given this poll of (then) current union members:
-84% believe workers should have the right to vote on whether they wish to belong to a union.
-53% believe the secret ballot is fairer than card check.
-71% believe that the current secret ballot process is fair.
-78% think Congress should keep the current secret ballot process.
-51% believe at least two thirds of the workers should be required to vote for a union before the union represents all workers.
-66% think it should be illegal for a union and a company to agree in advance to bypass the secret-ballot union election when organizing a workplace.
-63% believe it is unfair to fire a worker who declines to pay dues to, or support, a union.
-34% believe their union spends too much on politics and electing candidates.

This is not about poor employees whose lot in life would be so much better if only the man wasn’t keeping them from organizing. This is a straight up quid pro quo between union leadership and the Democratic Party. More union members equal more union dues (and happy leadership) equal more support for Democrats.

Link (PDF)

(Yes, I know, attack The Mackinac Center for Public Policy as a far right group. Take it up with Zogby – if you want to discredit these numbers then discredit the polling methodology or at least show me conflicting polls by a reputable pollster.)


For once in my life I agree with George McGovern (that champion of big business):

To my friends supporting EFCA I say this: We cannot be a party that strips working Americans of the right to a secret-ballot election. We are the party that has always defended the rights of the working class. To fail to ensure the right to vote free of intimidation and coercion from all sides would be a betrayal of what we have always championed.

Some of the most respected Democratic members of Congress -- including Reps. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, George Miller and Pete Stark of California, and Barney Frank of Massachusetts -- have advised that workers in developing countries such as Mexico insist on the secret ballot when voting as to whether or not their workplaces should have a union. We should have no less for employees in our country.

It seems to me one of the big pushes for changes is the simple fact that unionization is down so much in the U.S.

The big push for change comes from the fact that working people haven't received any of the increase in wealth that the economy has generated for the last generation.

Unions are a blunt instrument, but you work with what's available to you.

It's not hard to imagine a card-check model being abused. Unfortunately, the situation as it stands is also subject to abuse.

Could we enforce the existing laws more strictly? I guess so. But we don't.

I appreciate the point Sebastian (and others) make, but in this situation appeals to fairness and preserving democratic goodness seem kind of weak.

Labor has been getting kicked in the nuts for a generation or more, and I'm not sure it's because their reason for being has been rendered obsolete by worker-friendly legislation.

Want things to be fair? Share the wealth.

Want things to be democratic? Give labor a voice in governance.

Otherwise, it's a knife fight, and each side is just going to do what it can to get the bigger knife.

Thanks -

The problem with enforcing a lot of labor law, and firing union organizers in particular, is that you can't get any evidence as to why an employee was fired. If the employees are not already unionized, they are almost certainly at will employees. At will means that the employer can fire them without cause, pretty much for any reason they want. There are a few categories that they can't fire them for, particularly being a member of a protected class, or being union organizers.

Pretty much anything else goes. Fire away. As long as you don't document that you are firing them for being union organizers, you're in the clear. If you can put together something else, even better. One employer I worked for asked me to make sure that I issued a written disciplinary report for every employee, so that, in case we wanted to fire them, that we had documentation to put us in the clear.

Unless you come up with some way to put real teeth into firing rules, and put the burden of proof on the employer, Sebastian's suggestions are a fantasy.

I see Sebastian beat me to the Zogby poll. I guess we both got the memo this morning. ;)

If employer coercion is a problem then deal with that. You want to strengthen the penalties for employer coercion?

How? I'm open to suggestions.

More vigorously prosecute with CRIMINAL penalties actual cases of punitive firing or illegal tampering with the election.

Cool. Why haven't I heard of the business community's support for these measures before?


Oh.My.Gawd.publius. What a bunch of hooey. Yeah, let's protect the union bosses by stripping the worker from their right to an election. Trump up a bunch of inaccurate 'big business' crapola a shove it up America's ass. Have you no shame? This pile of crap posting will forever label you as a pandering political lapcat. Jes, stick to your guns and deoderize this thing.

"in the abstract, all that sounds fine. but you're not taking any "right" away, you're just letting the union decide."

I'm not interested in letting the UNION decide whether or not it gets to represent workers. I'm interested in letting the WORKERS decide. That is what the election for the existence of the union is about. "Sign This as your vote" isn't how elections work and you have provided no argument as to why they ought to work that way. Even in stupid initiative-happy California we don't pretend that the signing of the initiative paperwork ought to count as the entire vote itself.

"now, if elections would start 2 days after a petition and the employer had to be silent, then fine. but employer-run elections are just never going to work."

See this is where I disagree with you vehemently. You can make the election period short. But you shouldn't be able to silence the employer. Do you believe that the union is ALWAYS perfectly honest during a union drive? Do you believe that the company NEVER has a good faith case against a particular union drive? Elections where you silence one of the parties (even if the party has lots of power) aren't good elections. In a normal election the idea that you can silence the incumbent would be considered ridiculous, even though it is transparent that the incumbent has more power than the challenger.

Honestly what the heck? Aren't you liberal? You want to supress both free speech and secret ballot just because you think you will get a better outcome that way. The juxtaposition between this post and the "Why care about the rule of law" post is striking.

Do you think secret ballots are generally useful? If so why? If not, why not?

If you can't answer that question, you shouldn't be abolishing secret ballots.

Next,

Having explained why you think secret ballots are generally useful, explain why this particular case suggests that they should be abandoned.

I don't think it is possible to do that because 'secret ballot' is a protection for the VOTER while all the arguments you are going to make about the bad COMPANY suggest that action should be taken against the company.

Now if you don't like secret ballot, fine. But make THAT argument in good faith and be willing to extend it to other areas.

(Yes, I know, attack The Mackinac Center for Public Policy as a far right group. Take it up with Zogby – if you want to discredit these numbers then discredit the polling methodology or at least show me conflicting polls by a reputable pollster.)

I think it's fair to say that a couple of questions - particularly the secret ballot vs. majority sign up question - are worded in a way which would tend to slant the results. With a slightly different wording, that 53-41 margin could easily tip the other way.

The other questions are similarly worded to trade upon general ignorance of the process and its fairness. MOST workers have NOT been involved with organizing fights, or been the subject of employer intimidation, so responses to question like "currently the government conducts elections, do you think that's fair?" have fairly limited information value.

I should also point out that majority sign up is only one provision of EFCA. It also contains provisions to increase penalties for employer malfeasance.

"More vigorously prosecute with CRIMINAL penalties actual cases of punitive firing or illegal tampering with the election.

Cool. Why haven't I heard of the business community's support for these measures before?"

Sorry you can't use this when Democrats control both houses and the Presidency. When they control the law making arm and the enforcement arm don't you think that removing worker rights (which polls of union members show they want) is overkill?

The problem with enforcing a lot of labor law, and firing union organizers in particular, is that you can't get any evidence as to why an employee was fired. If the employees are not already unionized, they are almost certainly at will employees. At will means that the employer can fire them without cause, pretty much for any reason they want. There are a few categories that they can't fire them for, particularly being a member of a protected class, or being union organizers.

The thing I don't understand about this is why would the employer fire them? With secret ballot, the employer doesn't know who is voting for what. And firing the union organizer is already illegal. So are you positing a situation where the company is just firing people at random in the hopes of hitting the right people? How does that work? I'm not suggesting that it could never happen. Companies do all sorts of stupid things. But it seems not very likely to happen very often. And it doesn't even seem to be a particularly good technique. Furthermore it seems to be remedied by having a shorter election period.

As I have stated repeatedly in this thread, I have no problem with a shorter election period--especially since that is the biggest complaint. If the long election period is allowing too much from companies I have a rather less drastic solution--shorten the period rather than taking away worker rights.

See this is where I disagree with you vehemently. You can make the election period short. But you shouldn't be able to silence the employer. Do you believe that the union is ALWAYS perfectly honest during a union drive? Do you believe that the company NEVER has a good faith case against a particular union drive? Elections where you silence one of the parties (even if the party has lots of power) aren't good elections. In a normal election the idea that you can silence the incumbent would be considered ridiculous, even though it is transparent that the incumbent has more power than the challenger.

I think it was probably hyperbolic to say the employer has to be completely silent, but certainly a level playing field here would have to involve either substantially limiting the ways in which employers can communicate, or enhancing the rights of organizers to communicate (require that they be allowed to hold meetings on company time and property, for example).

basically a fantasy:

Testimony Of Jen Jason Former Unite-Here Organizer, Gainesville, Florida

A “card check” campaign begins with union organizers going to the homes of workers over a weekend, a tactic called “housecalling,” with the sole intent of having those workers sign authorization cards. Called a “blitz” by the unions, it entails teams of two or more organizers going directly to the homes of workers. The workers’ personal information and home addresses used during the blitz was obtained from license plates and other sources that were used to create a master list.

In most cases, the workers have no idea that there is a union campaign underway. Organizers are taught to play upon this element of surprise to get “into the door.” They are trained to perform a five part house call strategy that includes: Introductions, Listening, Agitation, Union Solution, and Commitment. The goal of the organizer is to quickly establish a trust relationship with the worker, move from talking about what their job entails to what they would like to change about their job, agitate them by insisting that management won’t fix their workplace problems without a union and finally convincing the worker to sign a card.

At the time, I personally took great pride in the fact that I could always get the worker to sign the card if I could get inside their home. Typically, if a worker signed a card, it had nothing to do with whether a worker was satisfied with the job or felt they were treated fairly by his or her boss. I found that most often it was the skill of the organizer to create issues from information the organizer had extracted from the worker during the “probe” stage of the house call that determined whether the worker signed the card. I began to realize that the number of cards that were signed had less to do with support for the union and more to do with the effectiveness of the organizer speaking to the workers.

This appears to be consistent with results of secret ballot elections that are conducted in which workers are able to vote and make their final decision free from manipulation, intimidation or pressure tactics from either side.

From my experience, the number of cards signed appear to have little relationship to the ultimate vote count. During a private election campaign, even though a union still sends organizers out to workers’ homes on frequent canvassing in attempts to gain support, the worker has a better chance to get perspective on the questions at hand. The time allocated for the election to go forward allows the worker a chance to think through his or her own issues without undue influence—thus avoiding an immediate, impulsive decision based on little or no fact. After all, the decision to join a union is often life-changing, and workers should be afforded the time to debate, discuss and research all of the options available to them.

As an organizer working under a “card check” system versus an election system, I knew that “card check” gave me the ability to quickly agitate a set of workers into signing cards. I did not have to prove the union’s case, answer more informed questions from workers or be held accountable for the service record of my union.

When the union is allowed to implement the “card check” strategy, the decision about whether or not an individual employee would choose to join a union is reduced to a crisis decision. This situation is created by the organizer and places the worker into a high
pressure sales situation. Furthermore, my experience is that in jurisdictions in which “card check” was actually legislated, organizers tended to be even more willing to harass, lie and use fear tactics to intimidate workers into signing cards. I have personally heard from workers that they signed the union card simply to get the organizer to leave their home and not harass them further. At no point during a “card check” campaign, is the opportunity created or fostered for employees to seriously consider their working lives and to think about possible solutions to any problems.

For example, we rarely showed workers what an actual union contract looked like because we knew that it wouldn’t necessarily reflect what a worker would want to see. We were trained to avoid topics such as dues increases, strike histories, etc. and to constantly move the worker back to what the organizer identified as his or her “issues” during the first part of the housecall. This technique was commonly referred to as “re-agitation” during organizer training sessions. The logic follows that if you can keep workers agitated and direct that anger at their boss, you can get them to sign the card. If someone told me that she was perfectly contented at work, enjoyed her job and liked her boss, I would look around her house and ask questions based on what I noticed: “wow, I bet on your salary, you’ll never be able to get your house remodeled,” or, “so does the company pay for day care?” These were questions to which I knew the answer and could use to make her feel that she was cheated by her boss. Five minutes earlier she had just told me that she was feeling good about her work situation.

Frankly, it isn’t difficult to agitate someone in a short period of time, work them up to the point where they are feeling very upset, tell them that I have the solution, and that if they simply sign a card, the union will solve all of their problems. I know many workers who later, upon reflection, knew that they had been manipulated and asked for their card to be returned to them. The union’s strategy, of course, was never to return or destroy such cards, but to include them in the official count towards the majority. This is why it is imperative that workers have the time and the space to make a reasoned decision based on the facts and their true feelings.

In addition to the “housecall,” the union frequently employs other tactics to manipulate the card numbers and add legitimacy to their organizing drive. One strategy is to manipulate unit size. One of the most common ways that we ensured the union could claim that we had reached a majority was to change the size of the group of workers we were going to organize after the drive was finished. During the blitz, workers in every department would be “housecalled,” but if need be, certain groups of workers would be removed from the final unit, regardless of their level of union support. In doing so, the union reduced the number of cards needed to reach a majority. Another such strategy is that organizers are told to train workers to “provoke” unfair labor practices on the part of the company in an attempt to create campaign legitimacy and coerce a “card check” agreement.

One egregious example was when Ernest Bennett, the Director of Organizing for UNITE at the time, told a room full of organizers during a training meeting for the Cintas campaign that if three workers weren’t fired by the end of the first week of organizing, UNITE would not win the campaign. Another strategy is that organizers are told not to file any unfair labor practice charges because it would slow the “card check” process and make time for the workers to question their decisions.

After four years of watching what I feel were disgraceful practices on the part of organizing unions, and having experienced personal discrimination in my own workplace, I chose to leave UNITE, though I remain committed to work toward fairness and prosperity for both employers and employees in the American workplace.

"I think it's fair to say that a couple of questions - particularly the secret ballot vs. majority sign up question - are worded in a way which would tend to slant the results."

I quoted the words. I didn't do anything to hide them.

Tell us exactly what you think was unfair.

--thanks

"I think it was probably hyperbolic to say the employer has to be completely silent,"

I don't think so. Publius has taken the employer silence position repeatedly in previous threads, and to my memory has not backed away from it.

The thing I don't understand about this is why would the employer fire them? With secret ballot, the employer doesn't know who is voting for what. And firing the union organizer is already illegal. So are you positing a situation where the company is just firing people at random in the hopes of hitting the right people? How does that work? I'm not suggesting that it could never happen. Companies do all sorts of stupid things. But it seems not very likely to happen very often. And it doesn't even seem to be a particularly good technique. Furthermore it seems to be remedied by having a shorter election period.

The employer fires the organizers who are, necessarily, well known. The fact that this is illegal is little deterrent. One reason among many being - as was pointed out - it is very difficult to prove that this was the actual reason they were fired. And that's when the government is even interested in enforcing the law...

The workers’ personal information and home addresses used during the blitz was obtained from license plates and other sources that were used to create a master list.

This is noteworthy. While union organizers have to painstakingly assemble a list of contacts from things like license plates, the employer has a complete list of names and addresses (and next of kin, even) ready to go. Fair?

it's the employees' federal right to self-organize. why should the employer get to influence that?

obviously, he/she has something at stake. but history has shown that the influence is used for malicious ends, so i say draw that bright line. the costs of cutting them out are less than keeping them in

The thing I don't understand about this is why would the employer fire them?

How are you proposing that the union run an organizing campaign in which no one is actually, you know, organizing?

Also, how does this work in multiple-union situations or with disagreements among unions. (What? Disagreements among unions? Yes, it happens. See also disagreements between local unions and their national reps on strategy--Freightliner case anyone).

Can unions agitate against each other for representation using card check? Does the other union get to make its case or should we silence them.

What if a local wants to break off over a disagreement with the national organization? Do they get to shut up the national organization? Do they have access to card check rather than a real vote?

I quoted the words. I didn't do anything to hide them.

Tell us exactly what you think was unfair.

I wouldn't say unfair exactly, merely that as with any survey, the wording can profoundly affect the responses.

Here's the text of question 13:

I’m going to describe two ways that workers might be asked to decide if they want to become part of a union and ask you which of the two ways is most fair. In the first way, a union organizer would ask workers to sign their name on a card if they wanted to be part of a union. The worker would sign his or her name on the card if he or she wanted a union, or the worker would tell the union organizer he or she would not sign the card if he or she did not want a union. In the second way, the government would hold an election in the workplace where every worker would get to vote by secret ballot whether he or she wanted a union. Which way is more fair?

Now let's rewrite it a little:

I’m going to describe two ways that workers might be asked to decide if they want to become part of a union and ask you which of the two ways is most fair. In the first way, a union organizer would ask workers to sign their name on a card if they wanted to be part of a union. If a majority of workers signed cards, a union would be formed. Workers would also have the choice of requesting that a secret-ballot election be held. In the second way, an election would be held in the workplace where every worker would get to vote by secret ballot whether he or she wanted a union, after a period of time in which the employer would be allowed to make its case against the union. Which way is more fair?

Does that describe the process accurately? Would it still yield the same results?

Oops. Blockquote fail. Hopefully you can figure it out.

"it's the employees' federal right to self-organize. why should the employer get to influence that?

obviously, he/she has something at stake. but history has shown that the influence is used for malicious ends, so i say draw that bright line. the costs of cutting them out are less than keeping them in"

This is ridiculous. First of all we are talking about 1st amendment free [email protected]#%#$#ing speech about a politically valent topic. We let NAZIs talk about how Jews are evil but we won't let companies talk about how unionzing might effect the company?

Seriously?

The war in Iraq is less likely to directly impact a worker's life than a bad union hurting the company, but you want people to be able to talk about the former but want to silence people about the latter?

Seriously?

And you keep saying that it is the EMPLOYEE'S right to self-organize, but you do things that will protect only whatever UNION is currently organizing.

It should be impossible to say "we think the UAW is going to drive us under, but another union could probably work?"

It should be impossible to TRUTHFULLY say "we think this union will make this plant uncompetitive because we are already right on the knife edge of profit as it is?"

And what if actual workers want to talk with each other about alternatives? If you remove the election entirely (which is what you are proposing) the other side of the argument is never heard. Just 'here is MY case' please sign.

Why is that conducive to good decision-making?

Jack, the funny thing about your wording is that I wouldn't be at all surprised to see no movenment whatsoever. So long as you have to mention secret ballot (and you have to if you want to describe the two things accurately) I'm pretty sure that people are going to think "secret ballot generally better than not".

You might want to avoid the majority wording too, as the poll suggests that 62% of already existing union workers in the poll think that 2/3 or more should be necessary to form a union...

Sebastian's question is not actually why the employers would fire actively pro-union workers; that should be obvious. His question is really how the company knows who to fire. The answer to that is clear from even the most minimal exposure to the history of labor organizing -- or from the words to the song 'Union Maid': company finks, spies, stools.

Techniques promoted by union-busting consultants and today's technologies expand the possibilities for company intelligence gathering.

It should be impossible to TRUTHFULLY say "we think this union will make this plant uncompetitive because we are already right on the knife edge of profit as it is?"

If this is the case, it can just as well be an issue for the bargaining table.

In any case, the present situation is still one of dramatic tilt in favor of the employer. To even level the playing field, we would need to either severely restrict the ability of employers to influence the election, or strongly enhance the ability of organizers to communicate with employees (meetings on company time, contact lists shared by the personnel department, etc.).

Sebastian: Also, how does this work in multiple-union situations or with disagreements among unions.

By whichever union gets a majority of cards signed first. Or by a secret-ballot election if 30% of the workers call for it, as EFCA provides.

Jack, the funny thing about your wording is that I wouldn't be at all surprised to see no movenment whatsoever. So long as you have to mention secret ballot (and you have to if you want to describe the two things accurately) I'm pretty sure that people are going to think "secret ballot generally better than not".

You'll note that BOTH choices now have a secret ballot option, and I probably could've tilted option 2 a little further without being particularly inaccurate. (Even dropping mention of the SECRET ballot wouldn't really have been inaccurate - no more slanted than the first version in any case.)

And for what it's worth, I would be very surprised if the changed wording (and similar changes on other questions) didn't move the numbers at least a little. And the margin ain't that big to begin with.

But we can disagree on that. The point is it's certainly a legitimate doubt about the poll's methodology - so it's far from clear from that poll that a majority of well-informed workers would not support majority sign-up.

If this is the case, it can just as well be an issue for the bargaining table.

I should say that this really should be an issue for the (post-union formation) bargaining table, where professional union negotiators and researchers will be far more able to assess the validity of such claims than will workers sorting through a cloud of employer FUD.

I think the key problem, publius, is that you are treating the right of some particular union as if it was identical to the rights of the workers at some particular plant or company.

But the whole question is "Do THESE workers want THIS UNION to represent them?"

In that situation, you can't treat the interests of THESE WORKERS and THAT UNION as the same. THESE WORKERS have not yet expressed that they want THIS UNION to represent them.

In this conversation, you repeatedly treat the rights and needs of the union seeking the right of representation and the worker who has not yet signed over the right of representation as if they were identical. They aren't.

I have worked in unionized environments, and have also been involved with two organizations during attempts to unionize. The pressure to sign the card is great, and it is very public, and everyone knows who has or hasn't signed cards. Currently the union can tell people to sign cards because they will still have the right to vote in a secret election.

I can't believe the pressure will be any less (from both organizers and peers) if the card signing is all that is needed. This is the exact opposite of anything democratic. The secret ballot is essential.

Furthermore, unions DO overpromise during the campaign. And in fact, there is a lot of regulation of what the company can and cannot say. Essentially once a campaign is underway, ANY statement by a company about future benefits, even if planned before the campaign, is considered an unfair practice. Even if the employer had been planning an across-the-board wage hike for months before the campaign, they can't do it or talk about it because it would be perceived as trying to buy votes. The union, on the other hand, can promise virtually anything.

The value of unions can be great, especially as regards employee safety and benefits. But unions have become dinosaurs too, paying more attention to their own management than to their members. They defend the jobs of people who are absolute drains on the business. They file grievances, some valid, some petty, that cost large sums of money to adjudicate. (If they're mad at management, they purposely file frivolous claims.) They back seniority over job performance in virtually every situation.

At one big company where I worked, there was a major layoff. The SUB fund (supplemental unemployment) was exhausted by people with seniority taking a year off at 90% pay, and then coming back. Following that, after the funds ran out, the newer people were let go with no benefits. What a triumph of brotherhood.

It DOES make sense to say that two wrongs don't make a right in this context. If unions are seen as being unfairly treated in the election process, fix that; don't take away the worker's right to vote. The worker's interest and the union's interest are not necessarily one and the same.

In this conversation, you repeatedly treat the rights and needs of the union seeking the right of representation and the worker who has not yet signed over the right of representation as if they were identical. They aren't.

I think what you're arguing for is some kind of organized opposition to the union drive. Which is fine.

What's not at all clear is that the employer should be (or should even be allowed to be) this opposition, rather than a group of employees paralleling the group that is attempting to organize.

"And the margin ain't that big to begin with."

The margin is 12%. That is pretty big. And while we are talking about potential interview bias, please note that the secret ballot choice is the second choice, so first choice bias went to card-check.

"By whichever union gets a majority of cards signed first."

Why is this a good system of choosing between unions? Again it is like pretending that signing an initiative ought to count as the actual vote.

"I think what you're arguing for is some kind of organized opposition to the union drive. Which is fine."

How is that going to happen when you remove the election entirely?

"What's not at all clear is that the employer should be (or should even be allowed to be) this opposition, rather than a group of employees paralleling the group that is attempting to organize."

Unless you are going to completely destroy the First Amendment, I don't see what you could mean.

Unless you are an uber-paternalist and think that workers are just too dumb to make their own decisions (which I'm actually beginning to wonder if that isn't the underlying belief) you have to believe that the worker is going to weigh information to make a decision. What you are proposing is limiting the information available to decision maker.

That is an intentional recipe for bad decision-making.

I don't understand why you are so interested in that. It is as if you have decided that any possible union organizing at any possible time must always be a good thing and then are setting up a procedure which ignores any individual worker interests to make it happen.

I don't see why that is a good approach, especially considering that allegedly this is all being done to represent the worker's interests.

It kinda makes me think that representing the actual worker's interests isn't that important.

And why would you be surprised that a newspaper like the Post seems to favor the business side of this issue?

Most newspapers have destroyed what ever union shops were involved in their publishing business and also turned carrier employees into contract labor so they wouldn't have to pay into any tax programs.

The margin is 12%. That is pretty big. And while we are talking about potential interview bias, please note that the secret ballot choice is the second choice, so first choice bias went to card-check.

The sample size was only about 700, and while many questions had clear majorities in the 60-70% range, this one didn't. I think it's pretty clearly a point that's open to persuasion - many union members are really not aware of the issues or intimidation involved, and this survey does little to prime them about it.

It's also worth noting that this is a survey of current union members.

Union members enjoy better wages and benefits, but they largely take that for granted, and meanwhile the union still hasn't solved ALL their problems, so they're skeptical. Such is human nature. Support for strong union organization tools is often stronger among nonunion members, especially those who have had occasion to work with or observe unionized workers in a similar field, and the benefits they receive.

[Nell]: "By whichever union gets a majority of cards signed first."

Seb: "Why is this a good system of choosing between unions?"

If 30% of the workforce thinks a secret-ballot election would be a better system for choosing between competing unions, then that's what will happen.

If they don't, then workers will express their preferences by signing cards. It's as good a system for choosing between unions as it is for choosing a particular union: it expresses the preference of workers. It's a ballot.

Unless you are going to completely destroy the First Amendment, I don't see what you could mean.

I think measures such as mandatory anti-union seminars, paying estimated union dues separately, and threatening mass firings can be legitimately viewed as crossing something of a line beyond what is protected by the first amendment.

Meanwhile, the union is legally and structurally prohibited from engaging in many of the types of communication the employer uses. The issues are somewhat similar to campaign finance - and the first amendment implications are not so clear cut.

Sebastian: What you are proposing is limiting the information available to decision maker.

This is just disingenuous. As a comment above makes clear, labor law (though not well enforced) already limits what companies can do and say during a union election period -- exactly because they're not "making information available" but using their overwhelming power as employers against employees, i.e., making bribes and/or threats.

It isn't a normal ballot. I don't get to walk up to you and make sure you sign up the right person for president. I don't get to personally ask you to do it AND know for sure whether or not you did.

You haven't presented a good explanation of why I should be able to in a union situation and not able to in oh just about every other representation election in the United States.

Choosing a union is way more important for your life than choosing a city council member or a school board member, but you wouldn't even consider removing secret ballots in those cases.

"Support for strong union organization tools is often stronger among nonunion members, especially those who have had occasion to work with or observe unionized workers in a similar field, and the benefits they receive."

I've provided my citations, could you please provide your evidence?

And while we are talking about potential interview bias, please note that the secret ballot choice is the second choice, so first choice bias went to card-check.

Meant to address this. Presumably, they rotated the order of the answer choices. (And while I'm not familiar with the intricacies of survey design pitfalls, it's not clear to me why there should be a first choice bias in such a lengthy queston.)

In any case, this question (and the priming questions at the beginning of the survey) is clearly tilted in favor of the result they wanted.

Not unfairly, necessarily, but enough that I think it's very plausible you could get substantially different results with a different survey design. You simply can't claim that a 52% response on this question means workers are unfavorably disposed to majority sign-up.

"This is just disingenuous. As a comment above makes clear, labor law (though not well enforced) already limits what companies can do and say during a union election period -- exactly because they're not "making information available" but using their overwhelming power as employers against employees, i.e., making bribes and/or threats."

It limits bribes and threats, not actual truthful information.

And are you arguing for removing secret ballot with this comment or against it? As you note, the problem already has laws in place that don't involve removing the secret ballot from workers who have nothing to do with the wrongdoing you are trying to correct. You suggest that they have been underenforced.

Are you aware that Democrats will control the enforcement mechanisms?

I've provided my citations, could you please provide your evidence?

This is an "IIRC" thing. Not sure where I remember it from - might have been a survey of some kind, or simply anecdotal. If you don't find the concept plausible, place whatever weight you like on it.

"In any case, this question (and the priming questions at the beginning of the survey) is clearly tilted in favor of the result they wanted."

You still haven't shown the part that you think is clearly tilted in favor of the result they wanted. You have shown how you could tilt it more in favor of what you wanted, but you have not shown (or even really suggested) how that wording was tilted in a way that suggests that we didn't get an accurate view of the union worker's beliefs on the question. And if you are going to frame it as only 52% in favor of of secret ballot, you have to note that it was only 41% in favor of card check. So if 52% shows only a slight majority in favor of secret ballot, 41% must show a pretty serious overall dislike of card check.

And again that question has nothing to do with majority sign up. Card check is independent of the threshold required for representation.

Question 18 deals with that. 62% of union workers believe that a 2/3 vote or more should be required to bind workers to a union.

You still haven't shown the part that you think is clearly tilted in favor of the result they wanted. You have shown how you could tilt it more in favor of what you wanted, but you have not shown (or even really suggested) how that wording was tilted in a way that suggests that we didn't get an accurate view of the union worker's beliefs on the question.

I would have thought this is fairly obvious. For one thing, it's two sides of the same coin. I tilted the question the other way without being inaccurate.

It's also an issue of priming. Neither this question, nor any of the previous questions, bring up any issues about employer intimidation of union organizers. Issues that ARE brought up are things like fat salaries for lazy union bosses.

And then of course there's the obvious. The first option is made to sound complicated and awkward. In the second the "government" simply holds a wonderful, fair election with SECRET BALLOTS. No mention of a secret ballot option in the first choice. No context about intimidation.

Question 18 deals with that. 62% of union workers believe that a 2/3 vote or more should be required to bind workers to a union.

Question 18 is rather carefully worded with the phrase "before that union that represents ALL WORKERS".

It's difficult for me to conclude from that that a question along the lines of "how many votes should be cast before employees are allowed to form a union" would get an identical response.

It's difficult for me to conclude from that that a question along the lines of "how many votes should be cast before employees are allowed to form a union" would get an identical response.

Or even "How many workers should have to sign up before they are allowed to form a union?"

The fact that this is illegal is little deterrent.

But this is exactly what validates Sebastian's objection.

Supporters of EFCA (disclaimer: that currently includes me) argue that while preserving ballot secrecy would certainly be preferable in theory, the existing system is so ridiculously out of whack that those ballots can't be protected from employer coercion. Faced with a choice between "keep the secret ballot" and "level the playing field" we decide to level the playing field. Opponents of EFCA don't oppose leveling the playing field any more than supporters want to get rid of the secret ballot. They just disagree that card check is a reasonable way to level the playing field.

And they've got a very good point. As Sebastian points out, the playing field is already supposed to be level. EFCA addresses the lack of enforcement of labor laws by making different laws that are easier to enforce, and restructuring the mediation and arbitration processes. This sweeps the original selective enforcement problem under the rug. What if the selective enforcement problem turns out to apply to the new laws as well?

To borrow russell's excellent metaphor, EFCA gives the unions a very large, very sharp knife, in order to let them compete with employers. This solves the problem not by creating additional rewards for cooperation but by arming the insurgency in case they're viable and stepping in if it turns out to be a stalemate. A strategy with a mixed history of success.

By any reasonable measure card check is an escalation, rather than a de-escalation (or detente) of the battle for employee "mindshare" between employers and unions. It practically guarantees that employers will alter their own tactics in potentially unfortunate ways, and it offers no benefit to organizers who educate instead of persuading. It creates a systemic preference, in other words, for more persuasive (and profitable) unions over more effective and informative ones. Cf. collapse of the US news media.

There are other reasons why I tend to think EFCA is worth passing anyway. But anybody supporting it ought to at least be able to acknowledge that it's an awkward and statist solution which could indeed create worse problems than what it's trying to solve.

radish-

Agreed. Although again I'd point out that EFCA increases enforcement against shady tactics from employers as well: heavier fines, civil penalties, and making mandatory injuctive relief available to organizers as well as employers. (In other words, it strengthens existing laws by making some of them easier to enforce.)

FWIW, I did some research back in law school for a paper on an overlapping subject and concluded that

a) employers do very often fire union organizers

b) even if the company gets caught at it, the penalties are pretty small, the rationale being that the only 'real' harm is to the individual worker, not the union or the workforce, so it's still a pretty good deal for the company

c) to be fair, unions 'salt' workplaces with organizers -- i.e., organizers get a job solely for the purpose of organizing. I can hardly blame employers for being upset about this. It also tends to create a built-in defense for organizer firing, in that the 'salts' are often lousy workers, because they're new and unmotivated and steal time from the job to organize.

Sebastian, I like secret ballots too. But I think you're wrong to say that there's no connection between the card system and the employer abuses: at least part of the point is to compensate for the employer's captive audience advantage. I don't see a problem with the "hard sales" techniques described upthread (enter, agitate, etc.). Maybe some unions do coerce, but these particular techniques are far from coercive. Why is it wrong to remind someone that a union can get her better wages and she could use them? If the union rep made the exact same visit & speech, without the card, would that be a problem? I think not.

So how about the following system:

Announce the election two weeks ahead. Let the employer make his "how unions kill companies" speeches & slideshow, and whatever, and let the union reps go door to door -- but instead of a card, they ask the worker to call a toll-free number, enter a randomized ID, and press 1 or 2. The union still does a one-on-one sales pitch, but the ballot is secret.

Well, fine, Sebastian. How do you propose to have the secret ballot be workable in an immediate way so that employers can't stop employees from joining a union and forcing their employer to recognize it?

Well I think I can address Sebastian's concerns about protecting the secret ballot and lessening union intimidation. As it stands now, IIRC, you have the card check and one a certain percentage is reached a vote is scheduled. Now the problem is that the company delays (or perhaps there is a long automatic delay) when the company can find out who is organizing the drive and who the main sponsers are and they can hold meetings where they can make all sorts of threats, enforceable and unenforceable, misstate the law, etc.

So why tell the employer about the certification at all? Once all the cards are in an election is scheduled without informing the ocmpany and ballots can be mailed to each worker.

Otherwise, it's a knife fight, and each side is just going to do what it can to get the bigger knife.

At least some candidness on the union position, but I fail to see how a secret ballot is bringing a knife to a knife fight.

so if we are going to have a knife fight, and the knife is apparently the card check, why not make it available to both sides? Exactly what rationale exists to give one side an unfair advantage?

Employees should be able to make their own decision based on relevant facts from both sides. Card checks prevent that from happening. Sure, shorten the election period, but give both sides adequate time to present their positions. Nothing here, IMHO, would warrant abandoning secret ballot.

Jes: cite Google Jeff Ward, UAW and Freightliner and you'll get the basics. I can't post the link in my legal research software to the case.

Admittedly, most of the stuff on the web is from "employer" organizations. But you'll get the drift.

The pressure to sign the card is great, and it is very public, and everyone knows who has or hasn't signed cards.

So what? refuse to sign a card what are they going to do, make them quit? physicial intimidation? It should be noted that making threats of physicial harm is illegal and should be reported to the police, so I don't understand what the concern is?

If unions actually had the same leverage that employers had you might have an argument. But you can't hand-waive away employer intimidation on the grounds that it is already illegal to fire union organizers, yet still say physical intimidation, also illegal and far more serious, is a huge problem that needs to be addressed in card check.

If the majority of employees really want a union I have no problem with that, so long as . . . c) I’m not forced to join the union based on 51% signing the card.

Just to be clear, if you're not going to join the union, you're going to negotiate completely independent for wages, benefits, etc., and refuse to take advantage of any gains that the union achieves. Right?

So what? refuse to sign a card what are they going to do, make them quit? physicial intimidation? It should be noted that making threats of physicial harm is illegal and should be reported to the police, so I don't understand what the concern is?

This can't be emphasized enough.

The organizers going door-to-door are not mobbed-up New Jersey longshoremen, they're fellow employees. And we're talking about organizing things like Walmarts or the service staff at a hotel or a university. As I think Hilzoy has pointed out, a union organizer these days is more likely to be a young woman. (Indeed, the vast majority of union organizers I know are just that.) I don't mean to imply that they aren't formidable, but the notion that there's a lot of physical intimidation or other threats is absurd.

As for well-honed pitches... Well, I certainly hope they are. But it's insulting workers' intelligence to equate this with depriving them of a choice.

Sure, shorten the election period, but give both sides adequate time to present their positions. Nothing here, IMHO, would warrant abandoning secret ballot.

The major problem with this, and the background for the whole discussion, is that regardless of equal TIME, organizers simply do not have equal MEANS to "present their positions".

Currently they have to painstakingly try to track down names and addresses for as many employees as possible. Then go door to door in off hours and individually present the pitch for the union and with luck obtain a signature. Then if they manage to contact enough people and get enough signatures, there'll be an election. Maybe. Delayed as long as the employer can manage, while the emplyer: makes threats, holds mandatory meetings where it presents it presents anti-union FUD, ferrets out the identities of organizers and supporters and fires or harasses them, sends out multiple mailings to employers and their spouses, SWEARS up and down it will address all the workers' concerns, as long as they don't form a union, etc., etc.

Meanwhile, organizers can try to painstakingly go through their (possibly incomplete) list again. Door to door. Maybe send a couple mailings. Catch a few minutes during breaks (maybe).

Like Publius said, it's as if Al Franken had unlimited funds and time and the ability to fire anyone, but Coleman was limited to talking to people on his lunch break.

Take it up with Zogby – if you want to discredit these numbers then discredit the polling methodology

Question 13: I’m going to describe two ways that workers might be asked to decide if they want to become part of a union and ask you which of the two ways is most fair.

This implies that it's one or the other, not the opportunity to have both options available. I don't think this question really supports your argument, nor what most of the people here are arguing for.

Expelitalicus!

fledermaus: So why tell the employer about the certification at all? Once all the cards are in an election is scheduled without informing the ocmpany and ballots can be mailed to each worker.

This overlooks the reality of company spies. Companies pay or otherwise reward workers who agree to pass them information about union and pro-union activity.

mattH: [Question 13 of the 2004 Mackinac Center poll] implies that it's one or the other, not the opportunity to have both options available.

The Employee Free Choice Act, it can't be said often enough, makes both options available. It does not mandate card check; if 30% of the workforce call for it, there is a secret-ballot election on the question of union representation.

I tell you what. Me and four of my large mammal friends are going to show up at your house one weekend unannounced. We're gonna have a card in hand that says that you vote against implementing the Card Check law.

We're gonna sit in your living room until you (try to) throw us out or you sign the card.

Capiche?

Nah, I don't like that system either.

I tell you what. Me and four of my large mammal friends are going to show up at your house one weekend unannounced. We're gonna have a card in hand that says that you vote against implementing the Card Check law.

We're gonna sit in your living room until you (try to) throw us out or you sign the card.

Capiche?

If that described the actual process, rather than some bad HBO parody of it, I'd agree with you.

But it doesn't. So I don't.

fledermaus and jack think the possibility of intimidation into signing a card is minimal:

"So what? refuse to sign a card what are they going to do, make them quit? physicial intimidation? It should be noted that making threats of physicial harm is illegal and should be reported to the police, so I don't understand what the concern is?"

Oh, my. Apparently you haven't dealt much with the old-time unions, not the modern service-oriented unions. It isn't necessarily the official union organizers that will retaliate, it's the co-workers that the union has gotten riled up. Your car tires can be slashed, a noxious substance can be dumped into your locker, your equipment can be tampered with, your window at home can be shot at with a BB gun....the list is endless. Of course you can report it to the police. Are they going to be able to find out who did it? Even if that doesn't happen, you'll get the "SCAB" label and be treated like a pariah.

Emotions run high during these campaigns, and people do things to co-workers that they wouldn't normally do because they believe it's a life-and-death decision.

It does not mandate card check; if 30% of the workforce call for it, there is a secret-ballot election on the question of union representation.

And furthermore, if memory serves, the employer can mandate a secret-ballot election if it can prove -- to what degree I don't recall -- that the card check has been tampered with by union organizers.

Oh, my. Apparently you haven't dealt much with the old-time unions, not the modern service-oriented unions.

I'll see your cartoonish "Goodfellas" understanding of unions and put it up against 100 years of labor history with an extensive record of employer retaliation and violence. I think I know who's going to copme out ahead.

Completely off the point musing:

I've never been in a union. I've never worked for a company that had unions. No one in my family has either (not parents, not siblings, not children). So I don't know anything about this. Mostly I wonder why anyone would want a job that measures and compensates them as part of a group rather than as an individual. Can't ... quite ... see ... it. If you're special then wouldn't you want a job that shows it? And if you're not special at this job why aren't you looking for a job you would be special at?

Mostly I wonder why anyone would want a job that measures and compensates them as part of a group rather than as an individual.

Because every single person cleaning hotel rooms is a precious, individual snowflake whose excellence and great attitude is bound to be recognized by the big company that owns the chain, eh?

Simple answer, Dave: Because the compensation is much more adequate when negotiated by a group. Power relations.

"Announce the election two weeks ahead. Let the employer make his "how unions kill companies" speeches & slideshow, and whatever, and let the union reps go door to door -- but instead of a card, they ask the worker to call a toll-free number, enter a randomized ID, and press 1 or 2. The union still does a one-on-one sales pitch, but the ballot is secret."

I'm totally ok with that, but that isn't card check at all. The whole point of card check is that unions don't want a secret ballot vote.


And looking at the EFCA increased penalties for actual intimidation tactics I'm all for that too.

"It does not mandate card check; if 30% of the workforce call for it, there is a secret-ballot election on the question of union representation."

Unless you are talking about something else (and I'm not an expert so I could be confused) this is the full text of the bill. It doesn't require anything like part of the card to offer a secret ballot option which then 30% of the people can choose.

You may be talking about Section 159(e) which would then mandate a separate election if on a separate petition 30% of the employees request it. That seems like a recipe for a mess especially if conducted in the company-free world that publius desires. Union focuses on high-pressure, short-time period card check with misleading information. It gets certified. Now any employee who wants to make an objection get his *first chance* to have a voice by agitating for a vote while the newly 'formed' union is right in the middle of its first contract negotiations under Section 3 of the EFCA.

How could that possibly cause problems for those employees, amiright?


dddddddave, did you suppose in your shiny isolation that employers evaluate each employee as a bright little unique snowflake, and decide with painstaking concentration what's just and right you as an individual should be paid?

I am a 4th-generation union member. My great-grandfather joined a railway union to get paid living wages for his work as a porter instead of being expected to subsist on tips alone. My grandfather belonged to a railway union (and retired with a good pension and ran a pub and sent my dad to Oxford). Would my dad have been educated to a level where he could pass the Oxbridge exhibition if not for the railway unions that got my grandfather and great-grandfather fair wages and a good pension? Who knows: but I joined a union the day it dawned on me that my employer was covertly breaking the law with regard to how they were treating me, and without a union to back me they'd have got away with it, too.

The notion that an individual worker negotiates as an equal with an employer for better working conditions and wages? Is a notion that benefits employers greatly, and individual workers not at all.

Nell
//Because every single person cleaning hotel rooms is a precious, individual snowflake whose excellence and great attitude is bound to be recognized by the big company that owns the chain, eh?//

Exactly. So why wouldn't that person recognize that it's best shot at fair compensation is to be a free agent cleaning hotel rooms as a subcontractor?

Nell
//Power relations.//
I really think this is a false notion. It is not power that commands prosperity - it is productivity that earns it. Sure power can grab it for awhile but that is like building on sand. If you build your hopes and actions on productivity and owning your own time then your hope will be built on a more sure foundation than mere 'power in numbers'.

Actually I'm not convinced that the 30% rule is as you have stated it at all unless there is ALJ rulings or something that interpret the text beyond what it seems to be. The text of Section 159(e) is:

(1) Upon the filing with the Board, by 30 per centum or more of the employees in a bargaining unit covered by an agreement between their employer and a labor organization made pursuant to section 158 (a)(3) of this title, of a petition alleging they desire that such authority be rescinded, the Board shall take a secret ballot of the employees in such unit and certify the results thereof to such labor organization and to the employer.

(2) No election shall be conducted pursuant to this subsection in any bargaining unit or any subdivision within which, in the preceding twelve-month period, a valid election shall have been held.

It looks to me like this would play out as follows:

1) Union gets card check. It may or may not have been candid in the process, you don't seem worried about it. You also don't seem worried about a lack of even minor discussions by empoloyers. Dissenting workers have no say at this point.

2) Union has mandatory first contract negotiations under Section 3 of the EFCA. At this point there is no right under Section 159(e) because there is no "bargaining unit covered by an agreement between their employer and a labor organization"

Dissenting workers have still not had a chance for input.

3) Contract is completed within 90 days (unless it goes to arbitration, if it goes to arbitration dissenting employees STILL have no input). Dissenting employees are bound under the contract.

4) only now can they request a secret ballot. And they are going to have to do it publically and immediately after what may have been very nasty initial contract negotiations with a newly formed union bargaining unit.

Jesurgislac
In my shiny isolation I see a difference between us:

I would say, "this job/employer situation is not recognizing my true value so i'll find a different job/employer situation that does. Or I'll make my own."

I'm guessing you would say, "this job/employer situation is not recognizing me true value so i'll make him/her see it. I'll make this job suit me (by exercising political power if necessary."

I may be wrong about what you would say. But the reason I choose my course instead of the other is that I have more confidence in my ability to adapt than in the ability/willingness of any job/employer combination to adapt.

It is not power that commands prosperity - it is productivity that earns it. Sure power can grab it for awhile but that is like building on sand.

Then the people with power and wealth in this society have built on sand. Because they have definitely grabbed it for the last thirty years. Productivity gains by workers have not been close to matched by real wage gains.

Unionization has plummeted in the same period. That's not the only cause; tax policies favoring the rich to a ridiculous degree during the Reagan and Bush administrations played a big role, too.

But in both cases, I'd say it was a deficit of power by the organized working class.

"So what? refuse to sign a card what are they going to do, make them quit? physicial intimidation? It should be noted that making threats of physicial harm is illegal and should be reported to the police, so I don't understand what the concern is?"

Interesting. If I raise the idea that it is already illegal to fire organizers, that is treated as laughable. But the idea that threats of physical harm is illegal is supposed to convince me that card check couldn't possibly open anyone up to intimidation, which labor unions have certainly NEVER engaged in (cough UAW, 2005).

Hypothetical: If an anti-abortion group were to agitate in a community with fliers saying "This is where Dr. Abortionist lives, go tell him how you really feel about abortion" would you call that an intimidation tactic? cite

I wonder if the fact that he was stabbed illegally was a comfort to Rod Carter

Were the Molotov cocktails for the New York Daily News strike meant for peaceful purposes? Bombing of delivery trucks? Scabs hit with baseball bats?

d'd'dave: Exactly. So why wouldn't that person recognize that it's best shot at fair compensation is to be a free agent cleaning hotel rooms as a subcontractor?

1: "Its"? We're talking about a human being here; I think you mean "his or her"

2: The best shot at fair compensation is not remotely as a "free agent"; it's by joining with other workers to bargain colletively with the employer.

Just a person's best shot at a lower health insurance rate with the least chance of being refused coverage because of "pre-existing conditions" is through an employer- or government-negotiated health plan, rather than on their own up against the insurer.

d'd'd'docile dave, I recommend this site to you: it'll give you a lot of useful insight into the relationship of employer and employee that, at the moment, you appear to be completely ignorant of.

It's basic, but at your level of shiny ignorance it's probably the best entry-level text you can cope with.

And I can't believe I forgot about Eddie York, shot in the back of the head. cite

You'll notice that most of these cases are from the 80s and 90s, back when union organization was likely to be more successful than the 2000s. The 2000s weren't as friendly to unions in terms of enforcement. Yet fewer deaths. That may or may not be a coincidence.

Nell

//Because they have definitely grabbed it for the last thirty years. Productivity gains by workers have not been close to matched by real wage gains.//

That's because communications technology and development overseas made it easier to locate jobs anywhere. Workers have had to compete with lower wage workers everywhere in the world. Globalization happened. I don't see how unionization would have held back that tide.

@Sebastian: My understanding of the 30% rule may not be correct; it was based on remarks by other supporters of the Employee Free Choice Act, not on reading of the bill itself.

So I'll check around to see if there are rulings or anything else that contradicts the scenario you paint based on the quoted text.

Sebastian: If I raise the idea that it is already illegal to fire organizers, that is treated as laughable.

Because companies fire union organizers all the time, and suffer no penalty for it whatsoever.

You're also rather avoiding the point that in a dangerous industry - such as coal mining - one of the best safeguards a worker can have is for there to be a strong union in the plant in which they work, ensuring that safety regulations are enforced.

Not that this - or anything - justifies murder. But what you find - certainly in UK industries - is that the more dangerous the industry, the more essential the union, and the more angry/resentful a worker will get at fellow workers who will naturally benefit from the union's work - safety regulations benefit all workers, not just union members - but who will not pay union dues nor take part in union actions for the benefit of everyone.

Apparently, d^xave is unaware that, ever since the tide turned from companies having "personnel" departments to "human resources," most employees are evaluated as members of a group anyway. Each employee has a certain job classification with a ceiling on its salary range, and the only way to get beyond that is to jump classifications. So, if you're an X, even a Senior X, it doesn't matter if you are the best damned Senior X to ever walk down the pike. If you're maxed on out salary, too bad for you; that's the upper limit for all Senior X's.

at dave

The reason why it makes sense for people to unionize together rather than to strike out on their own is often economies of scale. There are plenty of cases where big business makes sense. In these cases, the most effective way to protect the rank and file is to unionize.

Phil
Yes, I know that. That's the very reason I left a job i'd held for 5 years and struck out on my own in 1990 (when I was 30 and had two kids and not much savings). I was tired of trying to shine all year and only earning $200 more than the others in my category. Why people continue to beat their heads on that wall I do not understand. Political action is not the best way forward. Finding another job is the best way forward.

I was tired of trying to shine all year and only earning $200 more than the others in my category.

What, a special little snowflake like yourself didn't somehow manage, as a unique individual, to negotiate a higher wage for yourself? Why not? Do you feel that anyone else could have done it, though you could not?

//That's the very reason I left a job i'd held for 5 years and struck out on my own in 1990 (when I was 30 and had two kids and not much savings).//

It's really good that you were able to do that and make it work.

That same option is not always available to everyone, for a very wide variety of reasons. Health care, for one.

There are also industries which don't really lend themselves to the entrepreneurial small shop business model.

For one reason or another, a lot of people find themselves working for somebody else. A lot of those folks get their wages, and nothing more than their wages, and those wages are kept as low as they can be kept.

The only way for those folks to get a voice in the governance of the companies they work for is to organize. So that's what they do.

Saying that what they should really do instead is quit their jobs and hang out their own shingle is, as I think should be obvious, not really a practical solution for many, many people.

Thanks -

Exactly. So why wouldn't that person recognize that it's best shot at fair compensation is to be a free agent cleaning hotel rooms as a subcontractor?

I'm vaguely curious why you think this would actually work -- I don't know of any hotels that would hire a small external shop when they could in-house the costs -- but I'm really curious how you think this would work for, say, coal-miners.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad