Toe Tags on Card Check

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Lost in the news of the day was the GOP Senate minority's victory on card check:

Democrats were unable to get the 60 votes needed to force consideration of the Employee Free Choice Act, ending organized labor's chance to win its top legislative priority from Congress.

The final vote was 51-48.

The outcome was not a surprise, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., saying for months that he would stop the legislation in the Senate. The White House also made it clear that if the bill passed Congress it would be vetoed.

The House passed the bill in March. Democrats and labor unions pressed for a vote in the Senate in hopes of rallying their voters in the 2008 elections, where they hope to win the White House and increase their majorities in the House and Senate.

"We will keep coming back year after year after year," said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio.

If you were one of those voters who pulled the blue "D" lever hoping that a Democratic Congress wouldn't get anything done as long as George W. Bush was president, good call.

Some rich guy with nice hair is angry about this.

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  1. Which raises an interesting question: is it possible to have approval ratings in the negative numbers?

  2. If you were one of those voters who pulled the blue “D” lever hoping that a Democratic Congress wouldn’t get anything done as long as George W. Bush was president, good call.

    So Congress was trying to increase liberty by making it easier for workers to organize and we were supposed to “hope” that it wouldn’t happen?

  3. I am embarrassed as an Ohioan to call Sherrod Brown my Senator. He is a socialist weasel and a patsy for the unions.

    In any event, had this bill passed, those voting for or against unions would no longer have had the benefit of using a secret ballot. It was not about allowing workers to organize, it was about empowering union bosses to intimidate dissenters into voting to unionize.

    George Will had a very good editorial on this issue.

  4. But what’s wrong with union bosses using their freedom of speech to try to convince workers to organize?

  5. But what’s wrong with union bosses using their freedom of speech to try to convince workers to organize?

    Nothing’s wrong. But you don’t need an act of congress to do it. We already have the first amendment, that should be sufficient. That the union bosses are trying to get stuff out of congress means that they want something more than the free speech enjoyed by you and I.

  6. “But what’s wrong with union bosses using their freedom of speech to try to convince workers to organize?”

    The secret ballot is an extension of “freedom of speech”. It ensures the freedom to speak confidentially and without fear of reprisal.

  7. We should be able to work this out. Union bosses can do away with secret ballot and company bosses can choose not to deal with unions at all. Freedom of speech, meet freedom of association. Deal?

  8. Matt: The secret ballot has been misused by companies to drag out the certification process in order to intimidate workers into not joining a union (a few firings ususally suffice) which leads me to

    Brandybuck: The First Amendment counts for diddly squat in this context if you no longer work for the company because they’ve illegally fired you. The whole thrust of this legislation is to remove the power of the firm to intimidate the employees because current legislation make this an essentially cost-free exercise.

  9. More fucking hypocrisy from the Dems. They really, truly believe that without secret ballots, union bosses/members won’t intimidate the workforce into joining? Rrriight.

    They are the ones who believe that people are too stupid to make decisions for themselves. Or people are unduly influenced (or coerced) into bad decisions. –

    That Ronald McDonald is irresistible to kids. That Toucan Sam shoves Fruit Loops down kids throats. That kids have to go out and get violent after playing Doom. That anyone who watches Fox News or reads the WSJ is being “duped” into voting conservative.

    But a secret ballot, no, no, no. They can’t have that.

  10. “Matt: The secret ballot has been misused by companies to drag out the certification process in order to intimidate workers into not joining a union (a few firings ususally suffice)”

    I agree that intimidation is bad, but isn’t it easier to intimidate people when you know who they are? See? That’s why SECRET ballots are so helpful.

  11. We should be able to work this out. Union bosses can do away with secret ballot and company bosses can choose not to deal with unions at all. Freedom of speech, meet freedom of association. Deal?

    “Freedom of association” is not a concept that appears in our Constitution – it was put into place by activist judges, so I reject it.

  12. Matt: Actually I can easily live with the secret ballot if the other parts of this legislation are enacted- namely that companies will face some meaningful penalties if they intimdate their workers, and will bargain in good faith towards a first contract if the union wins certification.

  13. “Freedom of association” is not a concept that appears in our Constitution – it was put into place by activist judges, so I reject it.

    What does appear in the constitution, however, is the 9th Amendment. Here’s a refresher:

    The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ninth_Amendment_to_the_United_States_Constitution

    I think you’re just playing devil’s advocate.

  14. I would also like to ask those companies that are so in favor of protecting worker’s privacy the extent to which they would accept restrictions on their ability to spy on their employees? Just a question.

  15. Gr?nfeld Defence said “But what’s wrong with union bosses using their freedom of speech to try to convince workers to organize?

    It’s not about that. The bill was an attempt to remove secret ballots when employees choose to unionize. I already explained why this was important. Secret ballots allow voting with less coercion/intimidation. Do I need to paint you a pretty picture?

  16. Bill: “Good faith” is hard to enforce. Also, don’t laws against intimidation already exist?

  17. Snort.

    Look who’s suddenly so concerned about workers’ privacy and intimidation during organizing drives.

  18. Joe:
    Self-interest isn’t a crime, nor is it mutually exclusive.

    As far as I know, most employers would lower the boom on any outside group that came in and leveled threats against it’s employees. That’s just good management.

  19. I wonder if you’d feel safe working in an industrial plant or on a building project or in a coal mine after refusing to sign the card?

    This is a serious question for those who support the Employee Free Choice Act. You will notice, no jokes no snark, just a real concern for peoples physical safety after the secret ballot is removed.

  20. Matt: Good faith is enforced in this legislation by mandating an arbitrated first contract if the two sides can’t come to terms. Unfortunately the type of intimidation employed here is virtually legal as someone fired unjustly can only get back pay minus earning elsewhere. The NLRB hearings can take years and not surprisingly, few choose to go this route.

  21. “”Freedom of association” is not a concept that appears in our Constitution – it was put into place by activist judges, so I reject it.”

    Convenient. You are rejecting all freedom of association arguments, then, I suppose, along with other freedoms activist judges stuck in there, like privacy?

  22. I’m seriously curious if there is any argument for eliminating secret balloting that is based on the actual fairness of the process rather than making it easier for organizers to be successful in it regardless of the means. The argument for keeping secret balloting is obvious – if you don’t know how people actually voted, both the employeer and the union organizers don’t know who to intimidate. I see how it makes it easier for the union organizers, but it does so by making the union organizers know who has voted to unionize rather than a 3rd party who will not reveal who voted which way. Imagine if instead of the union holding the cards, the employeer did (or if the employer had to collect negative responses in the same manner to prevent unionization) – that’s would obviously be unfair since it would make intimidation a simple matter for the employer.

    The normal response to this seems to be that employers get to intimidate employees, so unions should get to too, which makes sense only if you view the unionization process to be designed to maximize unionization. If you think the process should be designed to accurately determined whether the employees want to unionize, the post-card check secret ballot is the best method because it fustrates attempts at intimidation by both organizers and employers, although to different degrees.

  23. J sub D,

    Interestingly, there actually have been a number of miner deaths over the last few years.

    Zero of them have been attributed to murder of negligence by mine employees, but every investigation turned up evidence of shoddy working conditions and missing safety equipment or procedures – you know, the sort of thing miners’ unions agitate for.

    Maybe – just maybe – the image of unions you get from Ayn Rand books and the Sopranos doesn’t acurately depict the realities of the dangers faces by union members, or the sorts of threats they receive.

    Matt XIV,

    Yes, there are, and they are very easily found if you have a broader reading list than those publications with an ideological aversion to unions.

    Seriously, who holds more power, more capacity to threaten, someone in the workplace – the guy who signs their checks and can fire them “for any reason or for no reason at all,” or their coworkers?

  24. For those who are opposed to secret ballots in unionization votes, I ask:

    Would you be in favor of a similar policy for political elections?

    If no, then hush. If yes, then have the guts to say so straight.

  25. joe – Without resorting to namecalling, your belittling/denial of union initiated violence is disingenuous at best and an insane denial of reality at worst. Oh no, the Teamsters would never intimidate, injure, assault or even kill someone form the other side.
    How is life over there in socialist happyland, anyway? I never thought I’d hear people from the left (economically speaking) oppose secret ballots. Have you no shame?

    BTW, you can answer the question I posed on my previous post anytime. I’m eager for your response.

  26. “Never” is a big word, J sub D.

    How about “so incredibly rare that making it a central plank of your political platform reeks of dishonesty?”

    To answer your question, if I worked in a non-unionized coal mine, I would feel unsafe if I refused to sign the card, as I would be afraid that my foolish decision would result in unsafe working conditions being allowed to continue and expand due to a lack of union pressure for improvements.

  27. For those who are opposed to secret ballots in unionization votes, I ask:

    Would you be in favor of a similar policy for political elections?

    If no, then hush. If yes, then have the guts to say so straight.

    The fact that (some?)unions wish to do away with secret ballots indicates to me who has more ability, or perhaps willingness, to coerce.

  28. jb,

    If I was confident that management was not taking the opportunity presented by the card-wait-election system to intimidate and fire pro-union employees, I would absolutely favor having elections after the cards were signed.

    It’s sad that the lack of protection for workers from this harrassment has made card-check necessary, but faced with the small problem of an imperfect certification process and the much larger problem of union-busting, I’m forced to pick the lesser of two evils.

  29. How about “so incredibly rare that making it a central plank of your political platform reeks of dishonesty?”

    I will no longer argue with someone who denies commonly known facts.

  30. joe,

    Seriously, who holds more power, more capacity to threaten, someone in the workplace – the guy who signs their checks and can fire them “for any reason or for no reason at all,” or their coworkers?

    This is exactly what I’m talking about – how does eliminating the secret ballot actually allievate intimidation vs make it easier for unions to do so by making the most imporant vote the one they are in the best position to exercise their capacity for intimidation regarding. From the perspective of the union organizers, this is a good deal. From the individual worker who may or may not want to unionize’s perspective this is a pretty raw deal, since it doesn’t do anything to prevent employeer retaliation after when who has signed a card is revealed, and may actually make it worse by making them the decisive vote.

    Yes, there are, and they are very easily found if you have a broader reading list than those publications with an ideological aversion to unions.

    Humor me and give me one – it shouldn’t be hard if that’s true. I’m asking this because I’ve read discussions about it on pro-union sites (I think this is probably the first thing I’ve read about card check at a site that wasn’t, because generally nobody else cares much) and haven’t heard anything other than the same line you just gave me above.

  31. Ah, yes, the “everybody knows that” argument.

    Everybody knows that this country is suffering from an epidemic of union violence.

  32. MattXIV,

    Although you would not know it by reading what anti-union publications write about the subject, this bill most certainly would have provided workers with protection from retaliation after the cards are signed. Card check eliminates the ability of management (and unions, too) to threaten and coerce by providing workers with the protection of federal law against intimidation and coercion as soon as they announce their desire to organize, rather than giving management a few weeks’ head start to make examples of agitators. Once those cards are signed, everyone is playing by NLRB rules.

    This bill most certainly would have done things to prevent employer retaliation, by immidiately providing the heightened scrutiny of federal labor law to workplaces where cards have been signed.

  33. joe,

    Thank you for actually making a relevant argument. My understanding was that it was illegal under Federal law to fire or otherwise retaliate against employees supporting unionization at any point in the process, including after the card check but before the ballot, not just after the final ballot.

    This still doesn’t justify eliminating the secret ballot rather than just making the relevant rules RE intimidation kick in after the card check rather than the vote and creates a problem with an interested party doing the vote gathering.

  34. So why is the government regulating the internal policies of unions?

    Two options: Get rid of Sherman, or get rid of the union’s special exemption from Sherman. Leave the internal union politics to the unions.

    Thanks!

  35. It’s also a violation of NLRA to fire someone for unionization activities even before any cards have been signed. If the already-existing federal protection that union-supporting workers receive isn’t effective, why will this new protection be?

  36. crimethink, MattXIV,

    You are correct that intimidation and coercion are illegal, regardless of what stage the organizing process is in, but those are difficult charges to prove if there isn’t close oversight, and any legal action is going to take place months or years after the unionization effort is crushed, if at all.

    NRLB certification brings closer scrutiny of both sides in a union drive, and makes more resources available. It allows the NRLB to take administrative action, which of course is going to be more responsive than the courts.

    I’m not a labor law expert here. If you poke around on the AFL-CIO web site and do a little searching, I’m sure you can find this position fleshed out better.

  37. joe | June 26, 2007, 9:10pm | #

    What’s so special about knowing my vote that enables all this “closer scrutiny” and responsive “resources”. Couldn’t these be made avilable without disclosing votes?

  38. How does labor think it can win
    when labor is becoming cheaper?

    Labor cares only about the big guys,
    the Wal-marts and transportation.
    Most strikes happen where benefits are best.

    In NC, the textile industry is dying,
    even while the graduates are thriving.
    They call the demise of textile mills
    as having been Norma Rae’d.

    I wonder if Pillow Text hosiery machines
    are now buzzing in Asia making cloth?

  39. Joe said…
    [quote]
    Seriously, who holds more power, more capacity to threaten, someone in the workplace – the guy who signs their checks and can fire them “for any reason or for no reason at all,” or their coworkers?
    [/quote]

    I would much rather lose a weekly paycheck than get my a** kicked, or worse, murdered.

    I worked as a computer tech for a coal company in West Virginia one summer while in college and had shots fired in my direction for crossing a picket line even though I could not be part of their union since I was 1) an unpaid intern, and 2) an administrative employee.

    So, I think in many instances coworkers have more power to intimidate.

  40. crimethink: As was mentioned above, a wrongly terminated worker can only receive back pay minus his earnings elswhere (years down the road). As a result, few cases go to the NLRB, and those that do are regarded as a minor cost of keeping out a union. One of the more important provisions of this legislation is to greatly increase the penalties for unfair labor practices to act as a deterrent. The secret ballot issue is picked on to divert attention from other important parts of the bill.

  41. Bradley, the fact that with your computer skills you still worked as an unpaid intern with a for-profit company shows how much unions are still needed.

  42. “So Congress was trying to increase liberty by making it easier for workers to organize and we were supposed to “hope” that it wouldn’t happen?”
    Hey, you must be new to H&R, or libertarianism in general. Helping workers exercise more freedom is frowned upon here. If they don’t like where they work they should just quit and find someone who will voluntarily contract with them blah, blah, blah…
    Y’know, that makes me think, from now on when any libertarian bitches about any local or state government, I want to know: why don’t you just move? There are literally thousands of local governments, so just move. No American local government is forcing you to live where you do, so you must be voluntarily contracting to be under them.
    You gotta live somewhere of course, but thats true about work as well…

  43. The secret ballot issue is picked on to divert attention from other important parts of the bill.

    Bullshit. If the other parts of the bill are so important, why haven’t they removed the card-check provision so as to get it passed and signed.

  44. I find it hilarious that Mr Pope tells a victim of union violence that the problem is him not being in a union.

    No shit. So, when you’re getting robbed at gunpoint, remember the problem is that the thief doesn’t have your wallet yet.

  45. Bradley, the fact that with your computer skills you still worked as an unpaid intern with a for-profit company shows how much unions are still needed.

    Because Bradly is wholly irrational and will work for no compensation? Or perhaps the compensation is worthwhile, albeit not immediately monetary. Nice try Bee – well, not really.

    As an aside; I have worked as a postdoc, which is a kind of under compensated internship. Recently , the liberal arts grads and postdocs unionized to bargain for health insurance through the graduate school. Those of us in demand, i.e. anybody that produce something of tangible value , already had insurance through our prospective department. My department couldn’t afford to pay for our current (good) insurance and the new graduate school levied universal insurance subsidy (oh, so very bad insurance). So we were all stuck with the shitty insurance the grad school provided. Luckily, my wife’s insurance covered me for avery reasonable fee. So I paid a bit more for just a bit less. Hooray union.

  46. pigwiggle,

    It’s not “knowing your vote” that brings closer scrutiny, it’s NRLB recognition. Card check would bring this recognition when a majority of the employess express their desire to unionize, not several weeks later, after the “troublemakers” have been fired and the rest of the employees threatened.

  47. Hey, some guy who’s never posted before and has the word “troll” in his email address – thank you for sharing your completely-believeable anecdote with us.

  48. My wife, a reporter, covered a union battle in a meat-packing plant.

    The workers were already covered by one union, which bragged that because of its negotiating the unionized workers earned more than the workers at a nearby non-union plant.

    Another union tried to reorganize the workers with the theme of “Your present union is wimpy. We’ll go to war for you.”

    The management response was to say, “We’ve negotiated a Christmas bonus with the first union. If you change unions that has to go away pending negoitations.” I.e. threats as to what might happen if… They also reminded workers that the diference in their union-negotiated pay was less than their union dues.

    All of the tire-slashing/threatening phone calls/intimidation level coertion the workers reported (off the record) during the campaign was from the unions.

    The workers got smart and voted both unions out.

  49. So Congress was trying to increase liberty by making it easier for workers to organize and we were supposed to “hope” that it wouldn’t happen?

    So Congress was trying to increase liberty by making it easier for unions to force workers to organize and we were supposed to “hope” that it wouldn’t happen?

    Yup.

    “Freedom of association” is not a concept that appears in our Constitution – it was put into place by activist judges, so I reject it.

    Amendment I: “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.”

    Bradley, the fact that with your computer skills you still worked as an unpaid intern with a for-profit company shows how much unions are still needed.

    Because there’s no way you should have been able to choose working as an intern and gaining experience and connections over not having any access to a job without a union card, regardless of your education. The Union Knows Best.

  50. “…force people to unionize…”

    He made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. He told that either his name, or his brains, were going to be on the union card.

    Nice anecdote, LarryA.

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