The 111th Congress: House of Card Check | Citizens Against Government Waste

The 111th Congress: House of Card Check

The WasteWatcher

Ironically, as Congress debates a bailout for the auto industry partly as a result of its massive, union-stimulated legacy costs, there are widespread expectations that Congress and the Obama administration will quickly try to push though the so-called “card check” legislation after the inaugural parties wind down.

In one of those classic congressional efforts to dress a wolf in sheep’s clothing, the bill bears the breathtaking misnomer of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA).  In reality what it would do is eliminate the secret ballot for workers voting on whether to recognize a union and replace it with a system wherein if 50 percent of an employers’ workers simply sign a card, a union would be recognized.  It is such a high priority for the new Congress that it will apparently be designated as H.R. 1, the first bill introduced in January. 

Versions of the EFCA were introduced in 2003, 2005, and 2006 and went nowhere.  But in 2007, it passed overwhelmingly in the House, but was stymied by the Republican minority in the Senate.  This time around, with Democrats in control of more seats in Congress, and President-elect Obama, who owes his election largely to the $360 million in union funds spent to leverage organizational and financial clout in 2008, EFCA will be on a fast track for consideration.         

Union membership in the United States has dropped from its zenith of 35 percent in the 1950s to about 7.5 percent today.  According to Forbes, while the U.S. economy added almost 10 million workers to its payrolls between 1999 and 2006, union membership rolls contracted by about 1 million workers during that same time period.  Historically, high unionization rates were prevalent in the auto and steel industry, as well as government jobs.  Union leaders today have employees of the so-called “Big Box” retail companies like Home Depot, Target, and WalMart in their crosshairs.

Current law provides workers with a system for choosing whether to recognize a union under the auspices of the National Labor Relations Board through a secret ballot election.  Under the current rules, once employees establish that there is an interest in establishing a union, which they can do by obtaining 30 percent of the employees to sign a card, employees still have to formally vote to join and unions win those secret votes about 50 percent of the time.  But rather than holding the vote on a specific date and time and permitting workers the time-honored tradition and privacy of a secret ballot, union organizers now seek the ability to wage an open-ended campaign with no end date, forcing employees to cast a vote that would be open to inspection by employers, union organizers, and their fellow employees.

Union organizers claim that the card check is necessary to counter the intimidation tactics of employers trying to fend off unionization attempts.  But intimidation goes both ways.  There are plenty of documented examples of organizers using undue pressure tactics on employees as well. 

The unions and their allies are totally committed to getting EFCA passed.  A June 2008 Reason magazine article quoted Stewart Acuff, the AFL-CIO’s director of organizing, saying, “If we have to build a bridge somewhere to get it passed, then build the damn bridge!  If we have to rename a highway after somebody, rename the highway!”

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