Workers Don’t Like Card Checks

In the comments section of my recent post on the so-called “Employee Free Choice Act”, MRH contends:

This isn’t as black and white an issue as you’re making it seem. I’m sympathetic to the argument that, in general, secret ballots are a good thing. However, in practice the kind of secret balloting used to certify a union takes months or years to complete, during which time management has significant time and opportunity to intimidate workers against joining the unions.
Under a card check system, a union can be certified much, much quicker.
From everything I understand, management intimidation is far, far more prevalent than union intimidation, so that’s why most labor advocates are in favor of this.

Commenter Tom W. offers a fine riposte (so read it!), but perhaps this poll (thanks Andrew) will also help MRH make up his mind. Here’s the conclusion (follow the link for more detail):

Labor activists argue that card check is needed to protect workers’ free choice as to whether to join a union. But workers themselves disagree. Overwhelming majorities of both union and non-union workers oppose the card-check system. Contrary to anecdotal stories of employer abuses, most union members believe the current election system is fair. Workers do not want the government to force them to reveal their choices to anyone and want the right to keep their votes private. Unrepresentative anecdotes from labor activists are not enough to counter the fact that workers choose private-ballot organizing elections, not card check.

There’s more, and none of it indicates that the majority of union workers want to have the “Free Choice” of publicly proclaiming their personal decisions on union-related issues.

Here are some of the numbers taken from the poll:

– According to a Zogby poll, 71 percent of union members believe that the current private-ballot process is fair, versus only 13 percent who disagree. Fully 78 percent of union members favor keeping the current system in place over replacing it with one that provides less privacy.
– Over 92 percent of union objections to employer misconduct during organizing elections in 2005 were either withdrawn or, upon investigation by the NLRB, dismissed.
– The government found substantiated evidence of employer abuses in less than 1 out of every 200 elections held.
– By more than a 3 to 1 margin, non-union workers say that they do not want to belong to a labor union.
– Fully 89 percent of Americans believe that a worker’s ultimate choice should be kept private and not made public information…
– A recent McLaughlin poll indicates that 79 percent of Americans oppose card check legislation that would end private-ballot elections. About 66 percent of union members agree and think that companies should never be allowed to skip private-ballot elections before they recognize a union.

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17 years ago

Very interesting! Like I said, I remain on the fence about this one, because of my pre-existing union bias.
Secret balloting does seem like the most fair possible way to organize, but I’m skeptical even in the face of Tom’s testimony that employer intimidation is as small a concern as he makes it sound.
Most of my very limited experience with labor issues comes from reading Thomas Geoghegan’s Which Side Are You On? which I recommend to anyone interested in labor issues.
It’s entirely possible that you’re right, and that workers today aren’t interested in joining unions, and think the current system is working just fine. I wonder if that isn’t, in part at least, the result of decades of anti-union sentiment in the country? (Of course, we can play cause and effect all day.)
I hope that, whatever our eventual convictions are, we can all agree that the current labor climate sucks.

17 years ago

Here, by the way, is a better response from a better blogger than I.

Marc Comtois
17 years ago

MRH, two quick points:
1) For my own Union experience, read this. It’ll help explain my perspective on these issues.
2) Re: the Klein bit, well, in addition to those poll numbers which seem to fly in the face of anecdotal charges, etc. Also, as one commenter said, I just don’t like the compulsory union membership requirements for certain jobs.
Oh, one more thing: I saw first hand the lengths that General Electric (via my Dad, who worked for them) went to to preempt unionization at a particular plant. They gave the workers very good pay and benefits. The result was that the union never got into that particular plant. So, the threat of unionization helped the workers in that instance.
I’m not against unions, I just don’t buy this attitude that insulated union leadership is somehow magically more benevolent that insulated corporate leadership.

17 years ago

I’m not against unions, I just don’t buy this attitude that insulated union leadership is somehow magically more benevolent that insulated corporate leadership.
Fair enough. However, it seems more likely, in general, that union leadership could (if all works well) be beholden to workers and have their interests at heart, where as corporate leadership always has higher priorities.
Are union leaders above reproach? Of course not, and like any power structure, they’re susceptible to corruption. However, I still tend to side with unions over management because of the inherent oppositional posture between employer (beholden to shareholders and profits) and employee.

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