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08 March 2009

Union Representation Card Check Legislation

Labor unions are doing very well in the public sector, where they have been very successful in organizing government workers. In the private sector, they are in deep trouble. In the 1950s they had 35% of private sector workers organized, but now they have only 7% in the private sector. Consequently, they have become desperate to find a way to improve their numbers in the private sector. The card check legislation, which was passed by the House in 2007, but defeated in the Senate, is once again Labor's number one lobbying priority.

Presently, if a labor union persuades 30% of the non-management employees of a company to check a card saying they are interested in labor union representation, the company must either accept the union as the sole bargaining agent of all of its non-management employees or call for a secret ballot election managed by the National Labor Relations Board of the Labor Department. Currently, labor unions win more than 50% of such secret ballot elections. This system is one full of injustice. First, it is wrong to require a company to negotiate labor contracts against its will with anyone or any organization. Company owners are not obliged to provide a job to anyone, except by their choice. When they are forced to do so, they have become slaves to their employees. Second, it is wrong to force those employees who do not wish to join a labor union to do so, unless the management freely chooses to make that a condition of employment, which they do have the right to do.

But this already union-skewed system is not enough for the labor unions. Clearly, workers have seen that unions are often very effective in destroying companies, which makes their continued employment very dubious. A very good illustration of this presently is the need for General Motors to go bankrupt, so an organization can emerge from its ruins which is not chained to many extremely uncompetitive concessions made to the labor unions. Many employees in the private sector have clearly understood the risks of joining a labor union and have chosen not to do so.

The union answer was to have Rep. George Miller (D of CA) introduce the so-called Employee Free Choice Act once again, which in the best tradition of Congress is anything but what its title suggests. This is more commonly called the card check legislation. It will require a company to recognize a union as the sole bargaining representation of all of its employees if 50% of them check off a card saying they want union representation. A union may be forced upon a company and those employees who do not want union representation even before they know that an attempt is being made to organize the workers of the company. There may never be an opportunity for the company and uninterested workers to make any counter arguments. It is also very clear that union organizers can put very great pressure on the last few employees they need to reach the 50% critical number for unionization. The secret ballot need no longer stand in their way.

This process of unionization is so easy that it can be readily applied to very small companies, which will be especially vulnerable to being taken over before they even know they are under attack. There is nothing to prevent the unionization of even very small Mom and Pop businesses. These businesses do not have the legal resources to contend with the unions. These small-time entrepreneurs have often suffered through years of personal privation to build a stable company and to get to the point where they could hire a few employees. In many cases, the lowest paid employee in such a company may be the founder of the company, who is still foregoing salary income in order to build his business. Yet, this struggling owner/manager is now forced to employ employees backed by hordes of lawyers from the union and to pay them still greater multiples of pay and benefits relative to his own pay. He may be providing them with health benefits already, which law does not allow him to provide for himself.

This proposed legislation further imposes the requirement that the company must enter into negotiations with the union within 10 days of the union getting the 50% check-offs needed. Then if no agreement is reached between the company and the union within 120 days, the government provides an arbitrator who will dictate the wages and benefits the company will provide the workers for a two-year contract. Given that the Labor Department will designate the arbitrator and given its generally pro-labor union stance, you can see why labor unions have written these provisions into the bill.

Meanwhile, a February 2007 McLaughlin Associates poll of 1000 respondents found that 79% opposed this bill and only 14% were in for it. Among just Democrats, 78% opposed the bill and 16% were for it. A 2004 Zogby poll found that 78% of union workers oppose any measure that denies them a secret ballot vote on union representation. Despite this opposition by voters, the Democrat Party obligation to the labor unions is so great that the Employee Free Choice Act, or abomination, may well pass Congress when it is considered soon. President Obama voted for it when it failed to pass the Senate last time and swore during the election that he would sign it into law as President.

Soon not only GM and U.S. Steel will be having difficulties being competitive, but your corner independently owned gas station and the local diner will be struggling even harder than normally to stay in business. Small business owners who relished doing it their way instead of opting for the safety and easier life of working for a large company, will find themselves slaves to a labor union. What a life!

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