We thought we saw unfair labor election practices at its worst with California’s Senate Bill 180, which authorizes farm employees to select collective bargaining representation through a “majority signup election” instead of the traditional secret ballot. The process would have farm workers sign preprinted cards distributed by union organizers, such as the United Farm Workers, rather than mark secret ballots in elections overseen by the state Agricultural Labor Relations Board.
Then we got a chance to review the Employee Free Choice Act that was making its way through the U.S. Senate until enough Republicans stalled it Tuesday by threatening a filibuster. The bill mandates the labor organizing process called “card-checking” whenever a union wants it. Card-checking is the same as Senate Bill 180’s method — unionizing through a sign-up of a majority of a labor unit. It also overrides the traditional secret-ballot election.
The Employee Free Choice Act passed the House this spring on a party line vote, with Democrats Jerry McNerney of Pleasanton and Dennis Cardoza of Merced as co-sponsors. We are very disappointed that these representatives of our valley sided with big labor and conspired against employers. But we would have been shocked if they hadn’t because unions contribute big bucks to certain re-election campaigns.
And for what reason were their votes important To halt the erosion of workers from weakening labor unions. Today, less than one in eight employees in the U.S. is a union member. The ratio was one in five workers 25 years ago and one in three a half-century ago.
Advocates of the Employee Free Choice Act say it would bring back the union movement in the U.S. by permitting workers to form a union without ballot-box intimidation, requiring mediation and arbitration to help employers and employees reach a first contract in a reasonable period of time and strengthening the penalties against lawbreaking employers. Union organizers charge that some employers go as far as to fire workers who embrace unions. Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., declared this week that 40,000 workers are dismissed annually without cause. Anecdotal evidence of businesses firing employees or closing their doors to prevent unions got members of Congress like McNerney and Cardoza to favor card-checking.
Yet card-checking could as easily increase coercion of workers by union organizers because of lack of impartial oversight.
Why are secret-ballot union elections now regarded as unfair by big labor It is democracy in its purest form, with the individual worker having the final say — not management or labor bosses.