Congress Considering "Card Check" Bill to Increase Unionization

According to these interesting data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 7% of the private sector employees are unionized; that number is about 36% for government employees. So, many don't pay attention updates like this. That may change soon. Congress is interested in increasing that percentage.

Here's a quick and oversimplified overview of union organizing under current laws:

When unions attempt to organize employees, they collect "authorization cards" from employees. Once they obtain enough cards, they typically present them to the employer and demand the right to bargain. (Some unions go straight to the NLRB and petition for an election). But the employer can reject the cards and demand a secret ballot election usually conducted by the National Labor Relations Board. Once the Board processes a petition for an election, the union and employer have about six weeks to "campaign" until the election. The union and the employer present their respective cases, and the employees vote in a secret ballot. The NLRB counts the votes. Unions and their advocates argue this election process deters unionization because employers use unfair or illegal election tactics. Employers argue they and the unions present the facts and let the employees decide. About half the time, the employees decide against the union. Unions don't like that success rate.

So, apparently a majority of the House of Representatives would like to skip all that secret ballot election stuff and let the union obtain representation rights just by collecting authorization cards. HR 800, The Employee Free Choice Act would do just that.

It's a lot easier to organize employees when the employer does not get a chance to explain why union representation is not a good idea. And the First Amendment gives unions a free reign on what they can say to obtain a signature on an authorization card. I bet peer pressure increases the number of signatures. Organizers' unchallenged promises about the benefits of unions help, and there could even be some signature hanky-panky once in a while too. (Such a cynic).

No one is paying attention to the rest of the Bill, though. Another section would require unions and employers to mediate and then arbitrate if negotiations do not quickly result in a new collective bargaining agreement. Lots of power in the hands of one arbitrator to unilaterally "impose" an agreement. Another provision imposes penalties of up to $20,000 per violation of "unfair labor practices" committed by employers before the first collective bargaining agreement is signed.

This Bill is not new. But with the power shift in Congress, this year it is gaining traction. Vice President Cheney has said publicly it will be vetoed if passed. But sometimes deals are made.... So stay tuned.