Card Check - History and Archive
Organized labor's top legislative priority is the deceptively-named Employee Free Choice Act (H.R. 800, S. 1041), better known as the Card Check Bill. The Chamber strongly opposes this legislation, which would upend decades of settled labor law in order to give organized labor an unfair advantage in union organizing, at the expense of both employees and employers.
The Card Check Bill was blocked in the Senate in 2007, but it is no secret that it will be a top legislative priority in 2009. Even now, organized labor is reportedly seeking to amass over one million volunteers to help it lobby for the bill, which, by some estimates, will more than double the unionization rate in the United States. Likewise, organized labor has made support for the Card Check Bill a litmus test for candidates that it will support in the 2008 elections. Consequently, the time is now for businesses to engage and prepare for the coming battle.
The purpose of this web page is to provide you with information and resources that you can use to educate yourself about this important issue and join the fight to defeat the Card Check Bill.
What Is the Card Check Bill?
The principle purpose of the Card Check Bill is to make it easier for unions to organize. Under current law, if union organizers collect signatures from at least 30 percent of the employees in a bargaining unit, the federal National Labor Relations Board will hold an election to determine whether to certify the union. This process, established and refined through decades of experience, carefully balances the interests of employees, unions, and employers in order to ensure that workers can hear all sides and then make up their minds and vote in private, without intimidation or coercion. Today a majority of elections are held within 39 days and a majority of union elections are won by organized labor.
Because union density has dropped so low (to about 7.5 percent in the private sector), organized labor is seeking to change the rules and make it easier to organize. The card check bill would do just that – instead of determining whether a union would be certified through a federally-supervised secret ballot election, the union would be certified the moment it collected a majority of signed authorization cards. The Card Check Bill would therefore eliminate the campaign period and the legal requirements that regulate it, not to mention eliminating the ability of employees to make an informed decision in private. Instead, employee decisions on unionization would be made in front of union organizers greatly increasing the opportunity for coercion and pressure in the union organizing process.
A secondary, and less well known, purpose of the bill is to amend collective bargaining law so that when a union is recognized for the first time government arbitrators will set all the terms and conditions of the union contract unless the union and the employer can meet unrealistic timelines. Today, the law requires that the parties bargain in good faith and recognizes that the union, representing workers, and the employer are in the best position to determine whether an agreement is acceptable and whether compromising on one goal in order to achieve another is acceptable. The Card Check Bill's mandatory interest arbitration provisions would remove any incentive for the employer or the union to adopt realistic bargaining positions, as each would be posturing for the arbitrator, and would give the arbitrator control of the most basic business decisions. It would also deny employees the right to vote on ratification of the contract.
Finally, the Card Check Bill would increase penalties for employers, but not for unions or others, who violate union organizing laws.
For a more detailed description of what the Card Check Bill would do, please see:
Are Authorization Cards Used Today?
Yes. Authorization cards are used in two ways today. First, authorization cards can be used to demonstrate that enough workers are interested in a federally-supervised secret ballot election. Although coercion and intimidation does occur in soliciting cards for this purpose (PDF), the fact that workers ultimately get to make their final decision on the question of unionizing in the privacy of a voting booth is an important protection to help ensure that true employee free choice is preserved.
Authorization cards are also used as part of corporate campaigns. Some labor unions have all but abandoned traditional organizing that allows workers to vote on whether they want to be represented by a union. Instead they wage pressure campaigns against employers, called corporate campaigns, to try to get the employer to agree to utilize a provision in the law to evade employee elections. Under these provisions, a union can simply collect signed authorization cards and then be "voluntarily" recognized by the employer without ever conducting a vote. In addition to demanding that no election be held, unions typically also seek to pressure the employer to give up its free speech rights so that workers will only hear one side of the arguments about unionization. Because corporate campaigns, sometimes called "the persuasion of power," are such an integral part of today's union organizing, the Chamber has published a briefing book, authored by George Washington University Professor Jarol B. Manheim, for policy makers outlining corporate campaign tactics and trends (PDF). The Card Check Bill would seek to make it impossible for employers to resist such campaigns.
Of course, doing away with elections comes with a high price. Authorization cards used without elections have been inextricably linked with cases of pressure, coercion, and other unsavory union tactics (PDF). This is why federal courts have repeatedly noted that secret ballot elections are the preferred method of union recognition.
>> What Courts Have Said (PDF)
Would the Card Check Bill Impact Employers and Employees in Right to Work States?
Yes. If a state has a Right to Work law, that means that individual employees can opt out of joining a union or paying union dues. In other states, employees can be required to pay union dues and fees. Some unions view it less advantageous to undertake organizing campaigns in Right to Work states, since they cannot collect compulsory dues. However, were the Card Check Bill to become law, organizing campaigns would become cheaper and easier for labor unions, making businesses in Right to Work states a more attractive target. Employers subject to such campaigns would not be able to insist on union elections for their workers and would be subject to increased penalties and compulsory interest arbitration of union contracts.
What You Can Do
The Chamber has been aggressively fighting the Card Check Bill and even won an award for its grassroots efforts in 2007. But we need your help if we are to be successful in the future. You can start by sending a letter to your Senators and Representative and asking that they oppose this bill when it comes up. You can also draft letters to the editor for your local paper and help educate others about this dangerous legislation.
Would Card Check Eliminate Secret Ballot Elections? America's Leading Newspapers Say Yes
Recognizing their vulnerability on the secret ballot issue (most people object to undermining this principle of democracy), Card Check advocates have decided to cover their tracks. They do so by making the claim that the legislation actually protects secret ballot rights.
One doesn't need a J.D. in labor law to see the absurdity of this assertion. In fact, you need only be a casual reader of some of the nation's leading newspapers, such as The Wall Street Journal, the L.A. Times, and The Washington Post, among others. The editorial boards of these papers took a look at the Card Check bill, and concluded decisively that the legislation effectively eliminates private ballots. See the link below and read for yourself.
Selected Testimony and Letters
Coalition for a Democratic Workplace
The Chamber formed and is a leader in the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, a coalition of workers, employers, associations, and organizations who are fighting to defeat the Card Check Bill and protect the ability of workers to make the important decision of whether or not to form a union in a federally-supervised, secret ballot election. More information about the Coalition, including polling results and political advertisements, are available at: http://www.myprivateballot.com/.
The National Labor Relations Board has more information available on how the union organizing process works today. Visit its web site for more information.