Retaliation

by Henry on March 7, 2007

I’ve a new bloggingheads with Will Wilkinson up. The first topic (and unsurprisingly the one we disagree about most vigorously) is unions and card check (Will is skeptical that employers either have asymmetrical bargaining power vis-a-vis workers, or are likely to abuse their position). I’d wanted to refer in our debate to a story that provides strongly suggestive evidence regarding the real reason why employers and their political allies are opposed to card check but couldn’t find it on the interwebs in time; Kris Raab (who, unlike me, has access to the Daily Labor Report ) was able to find it for me later.

A legislative proposal that would make it easier for labor unions to organize workers through a union authorization card process would allow them to bypass a formal election process and could prevent employers from making a case for why workers should not join a union, former Labor Department [deputy secretary] Steven Law told a wholesalers and distributors industry group Feb. 1. … Speaking at an executive summit of the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW) in Washington, Law advised the group’s members to focus their lobbying efforts against the labor-friendly Republicans who co-sponsored previous versions of the legislation. … Law told the NAW meeting that unions view the card-check process as key to building their membership. He said the bill would make it more economical for unions to organize smaller companies. “This is a holy grail solution to build themselves up and become a fighting force once more.” … At least one person in the audience did not seem have a problem with the legislation and complained during a question-and-answer period that Law’s comments portrayed union organizing as “heinous.” Law replied, “If you think that unionizing is a great thing, then this (legislation) is a great thing.” He later told BNA that his comments were not meant to portray unions as good or bad, but to emphasize that the card-check legislation could bypass the secret ballot process [HF-you can almost hear the reporter’s incredulity leaking through]. Also during the question-and-answer period, another audience member spoke out against EFCA, voicing disapproval of the legislation, and saying the bill is “very, very dangerous.” According to that audience member, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters sought to organize 30 of his company’s drivers in 2003, but obtained only 11 signed union authorization cards. Unless an employer learns of the organizing drive, “You have no chance to retaliate—I shouldn’t say retaliate,” he said to peals of nervous laughter from the audience. Rather, he corrected himself, “You have no chance to say [as an employer] what’s going on.”

Opposition to card check is all about stopping unionization, and providing opportunities for employers to retaliate against pro-union employees. Not that this is exactly news to anyone who follows this stuff (the National Association of Manufacturers have never been the most credible-sounding converts to the cause of democracy in the workplace), but it’s unusual to see it stated as bluntly as it’s stated here.

{ 41 comments }

1

eweininger 03.07.07 at 3:00 am

Though it’s pretty widely known, the Wal-Mart case (paywall) is worth recalling, if only because of the company’s immense number of employees.

2

am 03.07.07 at 4:28 am

And another leftist comes out against secret ballots.

It is amazing watching this unfold. They have no shame at all. They don’t even *mention* the ethical issues.

3

Slocum 03.07.07 at 4:34 am

Any congress with the votes to pass card check legislation would clearly also have the votes to tighten legislation against employer intimidation. But the idea that employer intimidation is a big problem and that card check is the most effective remedy is a ruse. The reason card-check advocates are in favor is clearly that it would enable union organizers to use peer-pressure and intimidation of various types (from threats of violence to threats of social exclusion) to induce workers to sign union cards. And I will say, this probably would be effective (in the same way that intimidation is an effective way to prevent workers from crossing picket lines).

The vote to join a union will has much more influential effect on a workers life than his vote for politicians, so it’s even more important for this union vote to be secret and, therefore, free of intimidation.

If employer intimidation is truly a problem, let’s fix that rather than create the opportunity for union intimidation.

4

C. L. Ball 03.07.07 at 4:49 am

While the voting process can be cumbersome, it seems odd that the solution is to end the secret ballot vote rather than streamline it and impose greater restrictions on employer anti-union activities. After all, it seems remarkably anti-deliberative to permit organizers to simply have a majority of potential members sign “valid authorizations,” as the Employee Free Choice Act of 2007 states. The organization of an election creates opportunities for public meetings that might otherwise be averted.

5

debris 03.07.07 at 6:04 am

As is unfortunately typical in the debate over EFCA, the arguments against display ignorance of the reality surrounding labor organizing. Two points bear emphasis:

1) The breadth and intensity of employer intimidation, coercion and retaliation has been amply documented.

2) Card check is nothing new, and has become an increasingly prominent feature of the labor organizing landscape in the past several years. Yet, opponents of EFCA have cited exactly no evidence in support of the claim that workers are subject to union coercion in card check campaigns.

Henry is exactly right — the opposition is all about stopping workers from exercising their lawful right to organize, and not about workplace democracy.

6

Patrick S. O'Donnell 03.07.07 at 6:33 am

Readers may be interested in Matt Bodie’s post on this topic over at PrawsBlawg: http://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/prawfsblawg/2007/02/union_elections.html#more

7

worse Jim 03.07.07 at 6:52 am

In what nation could the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the possession of a tinpot dictator in the middle of a desert nation be considered a slam-dunk certainty compelling immediate invasion, but “employer intimidation” in the homeland a far-fetched fantasy?

Thirty years ago I made the acquaintance of a mid-level manager who had been instructed in specific tactics to thwart unionization. Legions of lawyers have for decades been organized to defeat unions at every level, from the shop floor to popular discourse. Even within my own family, which was adamantly union thirty years ago, I sometimes have to raise my voice to make the point that unions can be good.

8

Brett Bellmore 03.07.07 at 11:41 am

“Opposition to card check is all about stopping unionization, and providing opportunities for employers to retaliate against pro-union employees.”

And support for card check is all about advancing unionization, and providing opportunities for unions to retaliate against anti-union employees. Pot, meet kettle.

I’ve worked in union shops. You tell me that unions don’t threaten people, I’m just going to laugh. Just admit it: You think unions are so peachy, you don’t mind if unionization is accomplished by intimidation.

9

Barry 03.07.07 at 12:48 pm

Brett, please sod off – it’s not like people here don’t know you.

Slocum: “If employer intimidation is truly a problem, let’s fix that rather than create the opportunity for union intimidation.”

When approaching a problem with laws, one tries to craft a solution which is easier to enforce down in the weeds. That’s card-check. It’s much, much more simpler to enforce that than to investigate and attempt to prosecute employer intimidation.

10

Steve LaBonne 03.07.07 at 1:27 pm

It’s much, much more simpler to enforce that than to investigate and attempt to prosecute employer intimidation.

Not to mention that no Republican administration will ever do more than pretend to pursue the latter. (The current one doesn’t even bother to pretend.)

I see our right-wing friends have learned exactly nothing from Iraq, in terms of the importance of dealing with the real world rather than their own ideological constructs…

11

Barry 03.07.07 at 1:36 pm

No, Steve, they’ve learned a lot. Even when things are crashing down around them, they’re still profiting from the war, both politically and financially.

12

tps12 03.07.07 at 2:04 pm

When approaching a problem with laws, one tries to craft a solution which is easier to enforce down in the weeds. That’s card-check. It’s much, much more simpler to enforce that than to investigate and attempt to prosecute employer intimidation.

Totally agree. The problem with employer intimidation isn’t the intimidation per se, it’s the effect where intimidation prevents workers who really do want unionization from organizing. Solution: make organization easier to compensate.

13

harry b 03.07.07 at 2:16 pm

If I had slocum’s confidence in the competence and goodwill of the government then I’d be with them in favouring cracking down on employer intimidation etc and maintaining things otherwise — basically I’m in favour of big government too. But experience suggests that the government does not act especially competently or neutrally in these matters. Basically, employers get a pass as long as they refrain from inflicting serious physical harms on employees who want to unionise.

14

Slocum 03.07.07 at 2:43 pm

When approaching a problem with laws, one tries to craft a solution which is easier to enforce down in the weeds. That’s card-check. It’s much, much more simpler to enforce that than to investigate and attempt to prosecute employer intimidation.

Would you support a system that preserved the ‘quick decision’ aspect of card-check but made it impossible for either the employer or union organizers to discover which employees had submitted cards (e.g. preserved the secret ballot aspect)? I’d have no problem with that–a system that prevented intimidation from union and management would be ideal. I strongly suspect, however, that labor organizers would not be particularly happy with that, because it would prevent arm-twisting.

15

harry b 03.07.07 at 3:07 pm

slocum — I’d be in favour of that, sure. Not to be nit-picky, but it wouldn’t prevent arm twisting, just make it harder to figure out whose arm to twist (even when the actual voting is secret you shouldn’t underestimate the will or ability of both employers and unions to figure out who they need to target!)

16

Brett Bellmore 03.07.07 at 3:13 pm

Oh, you sod off, Barry. I’ve been in strikes, I’ve seen union goons in action. Anybody who claims to believe that unions don’t resort to intimidation tactics is either living in a fantasy world, or simply thinks unionization is an omlette worth breaking a few eggs to achieve, and doesn’t want to admit it. And abolishing the secret ballot is clearly intended to make it easier to intimidate workers; If you think it’s going to advance unionization, it’s because you expect the unions to win an intimidation contest.

The secret ballot is such a fundamental, that the fact you’re willing to toss it aside speaks worlds about how much “liberals” really care about liberty.

17

Henry 03.07.07 at 3:28 pm

slocum – a lot of the problem here is that secret ballots don’t provide much protection against management intimidation – in particular intimidation of the “if you unionize, we will close down this entire unit” variety that Walmart and others specialize in (this is a _collective_ threat). I’m with Harry B – if the power relationship here wasn’t so grossly asymmetric I’d want secret ballots (I also have problems with the internal procedures of many unions, but that’s another post – see Thomas Geoghegan’s _Which Side Are You On?_ for discussion of problems of union democracy from a pro-union perspective). The fact that a “majority of US workers would like to join a union”:http://www.epinet.org/content.cfm/webfeatures_snapshots_20070228 but only a tiny minority (7.4%) are actually members suggests pretty emphatically that there’s something nasty going on.

Brett Bellmore conveniently chooses to ignore the actual content of this post – that bosses don’t like card check because to quote the speaker verbatim, “you have no chance to retaliate.” The manifest willingness of firms to fire pro-union workers, threaten them, spy on them, close down entire units etc to stop unionization don’t seem to be a problem to him. Thugs for J.H. Blair how are ya.

18

Brett Bellmore 03.07.07 at 4:11 pm

Intimidation is NOT a reason to strip away a basic protection against intimidation. Let’s get real for a moment: Card check elections facilitate intimidation by both sides. If you think they’ll favor unions, its because you think unions are more intimidating.

Shall we dispense with secret ballots in Congressional elections, too?

19

omar shanks 03.07.07 at 4:23 pm

Gee, if secret ballots are such great thing in themselves, how come employers don’t seem to mind card check for union decertification votes?

20

Barry 03.07.07 at 4:38 pm

Omar, that’s because of the threat of Evul Unyun Goooons is so severe that people like Brett, heaving a sign of reluctance, are quite happy to have that. They feel that the sacrifice of the secret ballot is worth it, to trash the Evul Unyuns.

21

Brett Bellmore 03.07.07 at 4:46 pm

I’m in favor of secret ballots under ALL circumstances. Because whether it works agains management or the union under this circumstance or that, it’s always a protection for those who are doing the voting.

22

Ben A 03.07.07 at 6:12 pm

I am puzzled by the suggestion that the obvious best solution to employer intimidation is abandonment of the secret ballot. As noted by others, greater sanctions on employer intimidation and more rapid elections do not seem like results beyond the power of the law to achieve. Why not try that first?

What is unobtainable in a secret ballot ellection, and what seems to be the greatest advantage alleged by card check supporters, is that a card check process can be conducted without the knowledge of union opponents (management or union-opposing employees). This is certainly a feature of card check. Whether it is a desirable feature seems to hinge on a prior committment to the proposition that employers (and other employees) should not have the opportunity to argue against unionization. While the opportunity to argue no doubt also provides opportunity for intimidation, it is not clear that removing the possibility of public deliberation is a just result. An anti-union employee might want a chance to argue before losing the right to bargain on his own behalf.

Now, it may be that the polling data linked shows union support is so very strong that only intimidation can explain the absence of unions. If so, perhaps method of securing unionization is irrelevant. Why focus on process when we already know what people want? I am loath to treat opinion poll results with such reverence, but I can see the argument here. I would note, however, that the polling data linked shows substantial variation over time. As recently as 2001 a majority of workers polled would “probably or definitely oppose” the formation of a union. Now that number stands at 35%. This is rapid change. I wonder what opinion poll results would give card check proponents pause? Would it be a result equal to the degree of unionization in the US, or if the number had stayed at >50% opposed to a union, would this consitute an argument against card check?

23

omar shanks 03.07.07 at 6:36 pm

Somehow Brett, I don’t imagine you chastising the US Chamber of Commerce for their inconsistent stance on “protecting” workers in union voting.

24

SamChevre 03.07.07 at 6:45 pm

A question for the card-check proponents.

Would you oppose a secret ballot if it was sufficiently easy to trigger and quick? (In other words, something like “if 10% of the workers sign cards, there must be a certification vote within 1 week”.) If so, why?

25

debris 03.07.07 at 6:59 pm

It would be helpful if critics of EFCA would read the bill before decrying its terms.

Contrary to the anti-union misinformation that employers and their union-busting hired hands are propagating, EFCA does not eliminate secret ballots. It merely eliminates the bosses’ ability to demand an election.

Significantly, existing federal labor law does not require secret ballot representation elections. Rather, NLRA sec. 9(a) provides that “representatives designated or selected for the purposes of collective bargaining by the majority of employees . . . shall be the exclusive representative of all the employees.” Unions have been organizing workers, based on a showing of majority support, without elections, for decades. It was only in 1974, in Linden Lumber, that the Supreme Court held that an employer could insist on an NLRB-supervised election. That decision represents a questionable interpretation of the statute, and the card check provision of EFCA at least arguably does nothing more than restore the law to its original state.

In addition, card check recognition under EFCA would not be self-executing. The NLRB would have to investigate the petition; only if the NLRB were satisfied that the union had legitimately obtained authorization from a majority of the workers would the union be certified as bargaining representative. If there were evidence of intimidation or coercion by the union, the NLRB would reject the petition (not to mention that the union would be subject to unfair labor practice charges under the existing statute).

Unlike the well-documented widespread abuses by employers under the existing system, there is absolutely no evidence of widespread union abuses under a card check system (which, I repeat, already exists where unions are able to get the employer to agree), and thus no good reason to believe that the NLRB’s review process would provide insufficient protection. In contrast, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that, even with enhanced penalties and enforcement, anti-union employers will continue to use every means possible — lawful and unlawful — to subvert union organizing through secret ballot elections.

26

Steve LaBonne 03.07.07 at 7:04 pm

It would be helpful if critics of EFCA would read the bill before decrying its terms.

Since when have wingers worried about facts? Facts are stupid things, after all.

27

harry b 03.07.07 at 7:51 pm

I wouldn’t hang too much on the opinion poll data myself. People want lots of things in the abstract that they aren’t actually willing to pay for. At the same time, even if very few people wanted to unionise, I think they should be able to without having to deal with employer intimidation.

I basically don’t think that employers should have the opportunity to argue against unionisation beyond the opportunity they have every day. Their everyday arguments range from the ability to make workers very uneasy about the propsect of them pulling their capital to treating the workers in a way that undermines the enthusiasm for conflict (well, in other words). I’ve seen a good number of organising efforts, and the people here who think employers are nice chaps always ready to play by the rules know different employers than the ones I’m seen. And different ones than Henry is reporting on.(I’ve know some absolutely delightful capitalists, too, even worked for one, but I don’t think even they really thought they were the norm).

Partly because individual freedom matters, and partly because there are temptations to abuse which are collectively self-defeating for the labour movement, it is important to devise systems that protect workers against intimidation by one another. So sure, figure out a way to protect workers from both sorts of intimidation. But don’t defend the status quo as superior on intimidation grounds.

28

Josh G. 03.07.07 at 8:06 pm

I’m fine with keeping the secret ballot as long as there are real punishments for corporations and managers that use illegal intimidation during the elections.

Say, a fine of 10% of the company’s net worth for each violation, and 20 years in prison (no parole) for any manager who participated in illegal practices during a campaign.

Somehow, I suspect the companies would rather have card check. The only reason they support “secret ballot” elections is that it gives them months during which they can fire union organizers, threaten to shut down the plant, and pretty much do anything they want without any substantial legal penalty. (The current NLRB sanctions are a joke – wrongly fired employees can at most win back pay, with an offset for whatever else they earned during the time, with no punitive sanctions whatsoever.)

29

Zephyrus 03.07.07 at 8:13 pm

Brett, you do realize that the USSR had secret ballots, yes?

I’ll join you in a second in saying that, all other things being equal, secret ballots are a good thing. In a better world, there’d be no need for legislation like EFCA. Of course, you can go on to say that in an even better one there’d be no need for unions or, going even further, private property. Which just goes to show we deal with the world we have, not the one we might want or wish to have at a later time.

In the world we live in that the reality-based community has to deal with, corporate and management intimidation is much broader and deeper than union intimidation. This statement is not a matter of opinion; it’s an empirical question, and the big disconnect between the percentage of workers in a union and those who want to be in a union is prima facie evidence that the statement is true. You have yet to provide evidence otherwise. Nor is there any reason to think that supporting card check cause a flood of union intimidation (cf Canada).

How, then, can we best support workplace democracy? We look at the institutions and institutional interests we have, and build from there. Management will always have a great deal more means to intimidate. The government will always be willing to look the other way when it does. Workers want to overcome both of these so that they might have a union. If you believe in workplace democracy–which is to say, the workers being able to form a union if the non-intimidated majority wants one–you clearly must support card check.

Now, if you oppose workplace democracy, that’s an altogether different story. But it’d be crass to accuse someone of that.

30

Brett Bellmore 03.07.07 at 9:17 pm

“I’m fine with keeping the secret ballot as long as”

Here’s the problem: That’s like saying, “I’m all for trial by jury, so long as we have the Miranda rule, but if we’re not going to have Miranda, I’d rather have trial by ordeal.”

Secret ballots are a safeguard. They protect the voter against individualized intimidation by BOTH sides. Abolishing them enables intimidation, it doesn’t protect against it. If you think employers are intimidating workers into voting (secretly!) against unions, you’re proposing to hand them a shiny new club to wave around. Why does this not bother you, given that you DO think the employer is willing to intimidate?

“Management will always have a great deal more means to intimidate. The government will always be willing to look the other way when it does. Workers want to overcome both of these so that they might have a union.”

And there’s the answer: You take management intimidation, (Very broadly defined indeed, of course!) as a given, and want to remove a protection against individualized intimidation to provide unions with a countervailing weapon.

You don’t want freedom from intimidation, you want a ballance of terror.

31

peggy 03.07.07 at 10:13 pm

Brett, I’m in favor of the balance of terror. As a child, I lived close enough to NYC to wonder if I would be part of the crater if a Soviet missle targeted Manhattan. Yet here I am today, safe and sound.

I’ve watched more people than I can remember being fired in unionization struggles.
Finally, last year, I was suprised when two women were rehired- because the boss got in trouble with the powers that be in prolabor Massachusetts. I was glad when those women got their miserable, low paid jobs back; glad that they had someone intimidating on their side.

32

debris 03.08.07 at 12:39 am

Secret ballots are a safeguard. They protect the voter against individualized intimidation by BOTH sides. Abolishing them enables intimidation, it doesn’t protect against it. If you think employers are intimidating workers into voting (secretly!) against unions, you’re proposing to hand them a shiny new club to wave around.

Brett continues to ignore the real world, in favor of some imaginary land where unions and employers wield equivalent power. Under the existing system, the only thing secret ballots safeguard is the bosses’ interest in keeping unions out. The empirical evidence is clear: workers are subject to far less employer intimidation in card check campaigns; yet (counter-intuitive though this may seem to those whose knowledge of labor unions comes from sensationalist Hollywood movies and TV), there is simply no evidence of increased union coercion in card check campaigns.

33

Zephyrus 03.08.07 at 9:01 am

Brett, how do you reconcile your view that the secret ballot disallows all intimidation when far more workers want unions than are in unions? And the many documented instances of management intimidation?

I wouldn’t call it a balance of terror, either. Ideally the point is to pre-empt all attempts to intimidate, not to give each side a more equal leverage to intimidate. Needless to say, there will of course remain some intimidation, but there will be a much lower amount than exists currently. Again, we can look to evidentary arguments for this–cf Canada, whose unions aren’t exactly engaged in a perpetual war to crush dissent and murder defectors.

Secret ballots are in general a good institution to have, but they aren’t the be-all-and-end-all of democracy. Like I alluded to in my earlier post, the USSR had them, and CPSU apparatchiks were still quite able to intimidate people into voting as they wanted (well past the post-Stalin era, too, so it wasn’t the violent type of intimidation either). Why is it so hard to think that management has the means and the motive to do the same, and that other more effective institutions might better serve the purpose of workplace democracy?

34

Brett Bellmore 03.08.07 at 11:59 am

“Brett, how do you reconcile your view that the secret ballot disallows all intimidation when far more workers want unions than are in unions?”

That would be a remarkably stupid view to hold, and I don’t. The secret ballot disallows individualized retaliation for the votes people cast, and that’s not “all” intimidation. It is, however, well worth disallowing, and I have a rather low regard for people who want to allow it, just because they think the side they like will be chiefly guilty of that offense.

As for how I explain a poll showing more workers wanting unions, than end up in unions? First, I reject catagorically the notion that if a poll conflicts with a secret vote, it’s proof there’s something wrong with the secret vote.

And second, I want a classic Stingray. Have for decades. I don’t have one. Gee, I guess somebody must be waving a club over my head, keeping me from getting one. Couldn’t possibly be that every time I take a serious look at getting one, I conclude it isn’t worth the cost and trouble.

In the context of union organizing drives, just like in the context of elections, saliency of choices goes up, and people start gathering information and thinking about things. This frequently has the effect of changing people’s minds.

Again, I reject catagorically the notion that, if people change their preferences once a campaign has begun in earnest, it’s because they were improperly influenced.

Finally, management saying to workers, “If you unionize, we’ll have to reduce our workforce, we may even move the work to another location, or go out of business.” is no more intimidation, than unions saying to workers, “If you unionize, you’ll get higher pay, and better benefits.” is bribery. I can understand why advocates of unionization wouldn’t want any potential downsides of unionizing mentioned by management, I just don’t find that desire normative.

35

Brett Bellmore 03.08.07 at 12:06 pm

BTW, I think I should underscore that I like having unions around. The threat of unionization drives management to treat employees much better than it would in the absence of that threat. I just happen to think that unions are much better as a threat, than as a reality. They have their downsides, and if the knowlege that unions are out there, and maybe an occasional organizing drive to keep that threat vivid, get you 90% of the benefit, the last 10% isn’t worth the dues, the inane work rules, lost wages during strikes, and all the other many costs of being in a union.

It’s an interesting question, I think: What percentage of the workforce being unionized is optimal from the perspective of the average worker? It certainly isn’t zero, but it sure as heck isn’t 100% either.

36

Barry 03.08.07 at 3:54 pm

Considering that the heyday in the US was what? one-third of private-sector workers, we’ve never even had the credible prospect of 100% unionization; probably not even 50%.

“BTW, I think I should underscore that I like having unions around”

Brett, I would say ‘stop lying’, but that’s futile, so I’ll just say that nobody here believes you. And that includes your fellow rigbht-wing union-haters.

37

Brett Bellmore 03.08.07 at 5:52 pm

Barry, the existance of unions has a benefical effect on the behavior of management, so I’m glad they exist. I’m also glad chemotherapy exists, but that doesn’t mean I think everyone should undergo it. Sorry that my appreciation for unions is more nuanced than you want.

38

debris 03.08.07 at 6:33 pm

the existance of unions has a benefical effect on the behavior of management, so I’m glad they exist

And, of course, the behavior of management is really all that matters, isn’t it? Never mind all that piffle about workplace democracy, dignity and empowerment. As long as the boss is a benevolent dictator, why shouldn’t the hired hands be happy and grateful?

39

Brett Bellmore 03.08.07 at 7:15 pm

Geeze, take a course in logic. Just as thinking that the secret ballot deals with a particular kind of intimidation does not imply that I think it deals with ALL intimidation, thinking that the behavior of management matters does not, repeat, NOT, imply that I think only the behavior of management matters. This absolute deterimination to put the worst possible interpretation on my words, even if you have to ignore what I actually say, is getting tiresome.

40

Jon Kay 03.09.07 at 6:33 am

The fact that a [link] majority of US workers would like to join a union but only a tiny minority (7.4%) are actually members suggests pretty emphatically that there’s something nasty going on.

There is some serious contrary evidence: according to Zogby, last labor day, 74% said they would not want to be a member of a labor union, and they say that’s the worst score since 1981. Since that’s consistent with observed trends in union representation, that’s rather easier to believe.

And why is the Hart data you referenced so spiky in the ’00s? Did they mix up the last data points that they show as crossing over in a big way? The graph’d be alot smoother if that’s what happened, as well as more consistent with Zogby’s results.

Gallup agrees with the high overall approval rating of unions. But Harris also has another poll that shows “great confidence in leaders of organized labor” at 12%.

41

C. L. Ball 03.09.07 at 10:49 pm

I don’t see how card check v. secret ballot is relevant to the “if you unionize, we will close down this entire unit” employer intimidation — that threat could be used in either system. How is retaliation against employees, individually or collectively, easier under the secret ballot system, unless card check occurs secretly (i.e., without the employers knowledge)? But how likely is that? Indeed, the card check might harm unionization efforts if employees who prefer a union fail to sign because they fear retaliation if the organizinig effort fails on a challenge. Also, if card check becomes law, employers will simply “get their retaliation in first.”

Few card-check backers address the anti-deliberative aspects of card check. If an union organizer contacts 51 of 100 employees serially, and all 51 card check, and the cards go to NLRB, would not the 49 employees who never had a chance to participate or deliberate with their co-workers be cheated?

While on balance I think that unionization benefits employees, there are aspects of unionization that are worth having employees discuss. Consider dues as a percentage of salary. At NYU, adjuncts get a 3% raise under the collective contract, but dues are 1.15% of salary, so raises are effectively 1.8%. That might be better than what existed prior to unionization, but we don’t have data on that to be sure.

If the process of unionizing is not deliberative, why expect that union governance will be? After all, employers are going to continue to threaten during the bargaining stages, which is where the real payoff to the worker comes in.

Comments on this entry are closed.