Third Party & Independents Archives

The Employee Free Choice Act

I’ve been reading about something called “The Employee Free Choice Act,” which is one of those Orwellian names that should really creep you out because its subsumes the exact opposite of what it actually is—sort of like “human resource professional.”

The Employee Free Choice Act would do away with workplace secret ballots about unionization, which have been in place since the 1930s. Instead, one would be asked to sign a public workplace petition, and if a majority do—volia!—you have a unionized shop.

Of course, when the union organizers come around, you wouldn’t be pressured to sign the petition should you feel unionization is not in your best interest. No questions asked. We’re all pals here, right?

Yeah, right.

Which brings us to today’s news, paraphrased from Reuters:

France this week is apparently facing major disruptions from transport and public sector strikes as unions wage a slew of separate campaigns against labor reforms.

Hundreds of domestic and international flights were cancelled for a third day on Sunday as Air France pilots pursued a four-day strike.

Travel chaos could spread to the railways on Tuesday when train drivers stage the first of two actions called by separate unions for the same week, while on Thursday many schools could be closed when teachers demonstrate over 2009 budget cuts.

On Saturday, postal services face disruption over plans to prepare the La Poste mail service for partial privatization.

Sounds like a worker’s paradise to me.

Posted by Stephen G. Barone at November 16, 2008 2:44 PM
Comments
Comment #270461

I’m not 100% sure what connection is being made here between “The Employee Free Choice Act” and France, except that both involve unions.

You’re right, though, the act is creepy. Why is there a push for it? What is wrong with having secret ballots?

The reason the big labor chiefs want this is simple. Workers keep voting against unionizing in many places and the union bosses don’t like it.

To have such a vote, enough workers have to sign a card authorizing it, and the union people are free to hound the workers—call them, show up that their homes, talk to their friends and family members, pressure them in all manner of ways.

They’re often able to strong-arm enough workers into signing the card, but voila, once the vote actually takes place, the vote often doesn’t pass even though majorities of workers had professed their support.

This act is really loathsome. It’s completely undemocratic and a transparent effort to ram something through that majorities of workers don’t want.

I’m pro-union and have no gripe with unionizing IF that’s what workers want. But forcing it on those who DON’T want it is an outrage. This is a throw-back to the bad old days of union thugs who not only gave headaches to management but terrorized and intimidated those they claimed to represent. Why would they even want such a thing if they weren’t planning bullying and intimidation of workers?

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at November 16, 2008 9:21 PM
Comment #270506
To have such a vote, enough workers have to sign a card authorizing it, and the union people are free to hound the workers—call them, show up that their homes, talk to their friends and family members, pressure them in all manner of ways.

Hmmm, and I thought harrassment was illegal. I guess it’s not as long as management can coerce employees to vote against unions by threatening to close up shop. But of course those evil union folks will harrass everyone, while management will sit idly by with angelic halos above their heads.

I’ve yet to see unions harrass anyone except scabs as they walk through union picket lines. As I recall, the Pinkertons did do some harrassment a few years back.

I guess if we create fictional enemies we can justify anything.

Posted by: snert at November 17, 2008 3:26 PM
Comment #270515

Snert,

Having a secret ballot ensures that no one is coerced by anyone. That, alone, should be enough. Violating a basic right every human should have for partisan gain (or payback) is not noble.


Posted by: Rhinehold at November 17, 2008 8:15 PM
Comment #270520

Rhinehold,

Actually, it hasn’t. Not in the thirties, forties, fifties,….etc. Employers regularly punish employees and use snitches to find out about union activity. Having worked at shops where this has happened, I know it first hand. But then reality varies for some individuals.

This isn’t about secret balloting, it is about allowing independent worker choice, free from management interference. But isn’t it fun to raise straw men?

Who would imagine that owners and management might try to protect their honey pot by any means necessary, including the coercion through surrogates?

For a libertarian you sure seem to side against the unempowered a lot. What is it specifically you have against workers signing cards to allow union representation? Are you against their freedom of choice? Free speech? The fact that polls show many workers would choose union representation if they had a choice, perhaps threatens you?

I don’t recall where in this bill it takes away any rights currently possessed by workers. Could you point that out to me?

The big bad union boogie man that the ultra right wing raises again and again is a bit tired, and about to lose it’s bite.


Posted by: snert at November 18, 2008 7:47 AM
Comment #270528

As I’ve wrote before, I helped to organize a beef packing plant in the 80’s. Over 90% of the employees signed union cards. Four months later we had to go on strike to force the company to hold an election. That lasted for over a month, and still it was months later before we started negotiations on a contract. Finally an arbitrator had to come in and help settle the negotiations. Weeks after the contract was agreed to, my foreman was telling me “Oh, the contract, we don’t go by that thing.” Just pay a few fines and they can stretch the process out for years. In the mean time they have cheap labor, and they can change company policies day by day as they like.
The same corporate powers that bought us outsourcing (shipping jobs out of the country), and turning your head to hiring illegal aliens to work for less, have also been dismantling any legal protections for collective bargaining.
The Employee Free Choice Act does a lot of things besides forcing an union on employers when a majority of employees want it. To hear the other side of it read this.http://www.ufcw.org/issues/employee_free_choice_act/q_and_a_on_efca/index.cfm

Posted by: Mike the Cynic at November 18, 2008 10:36 AM
Comment #270529

Sorry the link doesn’t work You’ll have to copy and paste. My bad

Posted by: Mike the Cynic at November 18, 2008 10:39 AM
Comment #270531

It sounds like the major opposition to this bill comes from the secret ballot part of it, so why not have a secret ballot AND work on the things the union has pointed out?

Posted by: kctim at November 18, 2008 11:09 AM
Comment #270532

snert

workers should be able to unionize if they so choose. that being said, the “The Employee Free Choice Act” is nothing more than a gift to the labor unions by the democrat party. workers should not be subject to pressure from either side, this just shifts that pressure from one side to the other.

Posted by: dbs at November 18, 2008 11:13 AM
Comment #270538

No dbs, the The Employee Free Choice Act is a gift to the workers form the Democrat party. They’ll always be pressure from both sides. From my experience most of the pressure form our side comes from thier fellow employees. As in any election if the union can get the employees to do most of the persuasion, thier fellow employees will be more likely to listen.

Posted by: Mike the Cynic at November 18, 2008 1:33 PM
Comment #270541

I belonged to the CWA back in 63. All I can remember is constant flower colletions. I like strength through the vote. Why can union members not hold meetings and if x percent of members have a complaint against another member (maybe a name in a hat with the complaint) they hold and up or down vote on that member. If the member (union boss, etc) doesn’t garner 66% of the favorable vote he is rejected from the union membership or maybe from his union position. Wouldn’t that stop union harrassment of members?

Posted by: Roy Ellis at November 18, 2008 2:49 PM
Comment #270542

Further, I have always disliked the sheer stupidity of continuing a policy, a union, a class of instruction or whatever that is seriously flawed and doesn’t deliver the desired outcome or product. Same for government. There is always a better way. And the Einstein thing about repeating a failed experienment and expecting different results.

Posted by: Roy Ellis at November 18, 2008 2:57 PM
Comment #270547

Mike the Cynic

“No dbs, the The Employee Free Choice Act is a gift to the workers”

only to those who support unionization. those that don’t will be forced to openly refuse to sign the card, and if they do they’ll be harassed by thier fellow workers, and the union. there’s a good reason for having a secret ballot. if the majority want the union they’ll still get it.

Posted by: dbs at November 18, 2008 5:16 PM
Comment #270550

dbs,

Do you even hear the absurdity of your statements?

They will be forced to openly refuse to sign the card.

Yes, if the majority of workers want a Union, they’ll be the odd men out. Imagine that. Guess what? If the majority don’t want a union then the union people will be odd men out. Everybody will know where they stand. No backstabbing,or lying about it. A group of workers openly discussing the values of unionization. Imagine. Horrors!

What’s wrong with your premise is the back dealing by management to thwart honest union efforts that has existed for years as noted by two posters personal experiences here.

It will now be above board….if enough people want it. If not, it’s business as usual. This is simply a new way to overcome secretive management pressures that have a known history.

But continue to vilify Unions because that is your dogma. Ignoring reality works great.

Posted by: snert at November 18, 2008 6:48 PM
Comment #270551

Roy,

I concur.

Posted by: snert at November 18, 2008 6:50 PM
Comment #270552

I think the votes should remain anonymous (for obvious reasons).

Posted by: d.a.n at November 18, 2008 7:26 PM
Comment #270553

Apparently not obvious enough for snert who wants to project his partisanship onto others.

I wonder why he isn’t screaming for all elections to be public? That would certainly solve the problem of verification if we all publicly display our votes for congress, president, etc…

And what I find extra interesting is, as I pointed out when I wrote about this a few months ago, many of the dems who are supporting this sent a letter to a province in Mexico vilifying them and threatening to cut off financial aid if they don’t make sure their union voting was done via secret ballot.

BTW, the things pointed out in the comments has nothing to do with the ballots being secret or not and are already illegal and the companies punished. But that is not what this is about, it is about increasing the number of unions on the backs of individual rights.

Posted by: Rhinehold at November 18, 2008 8:00 PM
Comment #270556

snert

nothing absurd about my statement. the Employee Free Choice Act removes the second part of the process ie the secret ballot. this gives those who felt coerced into signing the card the option to vote against unionization without thier co-workers or the union knowing. with the Employee Free Choice Act if a worker doesn’t want the union they are forced to declare it in full sight. no pressure there eh.

Posted by: dbs at November 18, 2008 9:07 PM
Comment #270557

Totally confusing to me. Can’t we stick to politics?

Posted by: Roy Ellis at November 18, 2008 9:47 PM
Comment #270562

Rhinehold said

“BTW, the things pointed out in the comments has nothing to do with the ballots being secret or not and are already illegal and the companies punished. But that is not what this is about, it is about increasing the number of unions on the backs of individual rights.”

Yes a lot of these things are illegal. But the companies find it’s more cost effective to pay the fines than to obey the law. All the election does is to postpone the union from setting up shop. As stated in the link I posted, 65% of workers say they want to be in an union.
The right is so worried about people getting a tax credit when they didn’t pay any tax in. Makes me wonder why things have gotten so bad that 30% of the workers are eligible for government hand outs.

Are you really worried about the rights of workers, or is it more a matter of profitability?

Posted by: Mike the Cynic at November 18, 2008 10:28 PM
Comment #270563

Mike,

The answer then is to enforce the law or increase penalties to ensure that the election takes place, not bypass the basic right of an individual to casting their vote in private.

While the left and right try to push their own partisan agendas, the individuals and those who stand up for them are being denied basic human rights. Do you really think that is the best answer?

Posted by: Rhinehold at November 18, 2008 10:50 PM
Comment #270564

Rinehold
I think we agree! One of the things the proposed change in the labor law does is to make the punishment for breaking the law more severe. As for denying basic human rights you should hear some of the stories about trying to organize Wal-Mart.

Posted by: Mike the Cynic at November 18, 2008 11:14 PM
Comment #270565

Mike and snert, if workers really wanna unionize, there’s nothing stopping them from voting for it on a secret ballot. What it looks like is that a lot of them actually don’t and the union leaders want to put pressure on them.

Sometimes its to the worker’s advantage to be in a union and sometimes not. It depends on the situation. There are times when the union rules favor some workers over others (like those with seniority). There are times when these means workers with better skills suffer in getting work, promotions, and other benefits in comparison to those higher up in the union.

And sometimes workers are actually happy with managment, believe it or not, and not all managers and business owners are out there exploiting their workers and not looking after them. If you’re happy with your boss and job situation, you might not want a union coming between you and them and you might not think that seeing those union dues coming out of your paycheck are worth anything you’ll get out of it.

If that’s not how you feel you can still vote for the union in that secret ballot. What’s the problem here with letting them vote privately?

Posted by: Liam at November 18, 2008 11:42 PM
Comment #270568

Mike,

I don’t have much of a problem with the rest of the bill, but the not having a secret ballot is unacceptable. And given that the union pacs and their lobbyists have said that they will not accept that part of the bill being removed AND them being such a large part of why Obama was elected, it will be very interesting to see how this turns out. Obama was for the bill before being elected, but how is the leader of all of us, will he reject the desires of the union lobbyists and defend individual liberty or will he capitulate and further erode the rights we have had taken from us already over the years?

Posted by: Rhinehold at November 19, 2008 12:42 AM
Comment #270570

Liam, I totally agree. The packing house I help organize slowly took things away from us, and charged us for things that were free last month. Becoming unionized was almost inevitable. The management was so far out in left field, if we had a holiday off on Monday we had to work that Saturday even if there was no work to do. (“If we let them have three days in a row, they’ll get drunk and not come back to work.”) I worked there for nine years.
After that I worked in the last toaster plant in the United States. We were competing with toasters made in China. The management used their free hand to accommodate employees and make sure the plant ran smoothly. Not to reward snitches and punish union sympathizers. To organize that plant would have been stupid. Of course it finally closed anyway.

Rhinehold
I still have to disagree. One of the rights they tried to take a way from us is the right to organize. This bill helps restore some of that. Since the part of the bill that says if a majority of workers want the union it’s automatically in, raises the ire of the business community (Those poor workers don’t get to vote in secret.). I’d be surprised if it were part of the final bill.

Posted by: Mike the Cynic at November 19, 2008 2:18 AM
Comment #270571

Sorry guys, but secret ballots still exist and aren’t outlawed.

What is added is another non-management involved process.

Nice try, though.

Posted by: snert at November 19, 2008 4:18 AM
Comment #270572

BTW,

I refuse to sign petitions all the time. In full public view. I’ve yet to tremble in my boots.

Posted by: snert at November 19, 2008 4:22 AM
Comment #270573

Oh yeah, I also don’t donate to charities when the cashier at the supermarket asks for a donation in full view of the line of shoppers. It’s called a spine.

Hmmm. I wonder if not signing a union petition will win me points at the office? I wonder if any butt sniffing dweebs might do that?

Lessee, If I don’t sign a petition union thugs will beat my children, but if I sign one, my boss will be nicer to me?

Perhaps if management knows that they cannot stop a process, they might consider employees stakeholders and treat them with some respect? Naw!!!!

Posted by: snert at November 19, 2008 4:33 AM
Comment #270574

Liam,

I have actually never worked in a union shop. I did work in groceries that were being approached by unions. I’ve known union people at GM and US steel.

I’ve mostly worked for small engineering firms.

I don’t see unions as Nirvana, but they do give employees bargaining power. I’ve watched that erode over my life, in lock step with the erosion of liberty and fairness. Coincidence?

Posted by: snert at November 19, 2008 4:43 AM
Comment #270577

kctim,

As you state above the card-check obviation of the secret ballot issue is the deal-killer for me. Snert’s allegations of “ultra-right” boogie men notwithstanding, this particular provision of the bill is nothing more than a means of rewarding strong-arm tactics by union organizers and getting more money in the hands of a Democratic support group.

Snert’s additional assertion that the “secret ballot still exists” is silly. The wording of the bill would eliminate the vote if more than half of the employees simply check on the card that they want union representation. So twisting arms ahead of time can eliminate the “problem” of secret ballots going the company’s way.

The secret ballot is a hill worth dying for, and here the Grim Reaper wears the union label.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at November 19, 2008 10:08 AM
Comment #270583

From the afl-cio website:

One of the most common lines of attack corporate special interests are using to stop the Employee Free Choice Act is the charge that we are trying to abandon sacred “secret ballot elections.” How do we respond?

* The real issue is how we can restore the freedom of working people to make their own decision about joining together to bargain for better wages and working conditions. Until working people can exercise a free choice, they will continue to lose power in our country, living standards will continue to suffer and our middle class will continue to decline. Workers need a real choice. They don’t have it now.


Do so-called secret ballot elections allow employees a free and fair opportunity to make their own decisions about unions?

* No. By the time employees get to vote, the environment has been so poisoned that free and fair choice isn’t an option. People call the current National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election system a secret ballot election—but in fact it’s not like any democratic election held anywhere else in our society. It’s really a management-controlled election process because corporations have all the power. They control the information workers can receive and routinely poison the process by intimidating, harassing, coercing and even firing people who try to organize unions. No employee has free choice after being browbeaten by a supervisor to oppose the union or being told they may lose their job and livelihood if workers vote for the union.

Posted by: snert at November 19, 2008 12:19 PM
Comment #270660

Snert,

Then the answer is to take the election to a neutral site adminstered by local elections officials under the election laws of the jurisdiction. The card-check provisions as written, though, are totally and unequivocally unacceptable.

These two points are non-negotiable. 1. There must be an election. 2. There must be a secret ballot where no one knows how any individual employee voted.

The rest of the provisions of the bill I have no quarrel with once a shop’s employees have expressed their real, private, protected opinion in the safety of an anonymous voting booth.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at November 20, 2008 9:28 AM
Comment #271363

>No employee has free choice after being browbeaten by a supervisor to oppose the union or being told they may lose their job and livelihood if workers vote for the union.
Posted by: snert at November 19, 2008 12:19 PM

snert,

I worked for Wal Mart at their headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas for fourteen years, after I retired for the Marine Corps…you’ve hit the nail on the head about brow-beating and threatening, etc. It is through intimidation of those who would have voted for becoming unionized, that Wal Mart has grown to the point of reducing America to become China’s lackey.

Who knows, we might still be America, if Sam Walton, Jack Shewmaker, Don Soderquist, David Glass and Lee Scott, hadn’t been so adroit at scamming their ‘associates’.

No one, who is sane, can think that keeping unions out of Wal Mart was best for the country…it was only best for Wal Mart. And, remember that America is the only country in the world where Wal Mart could have achieved its pinnacle, and America is the country the Wal Mart holds in the greatest contempt.

Posted by: Marysdude at December 3, 2008 6:05 AM
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