With unemployment continuing to hover above 9% officially; unofficially -- including people who have stopped looking for work, and who are doing part-time work it is closer to 17% -- you would think that the focus of everyone in a public position would be on job creation.
But apparently the National Labor Relations Board (NRLB) has other ideas. These include a stealth attempt to resuscitate "card check" union certification.
Despite open boosting by President Obama and many prominent Democrats, card check legislation has never made it to the floor of the Senate for a vote in the two times it was introduced, but it passed the House in 2007. This is because it is a policy that does nothing to make unions more accountable or transparent, and it fundamentally infringes on the rights of employees to a secret ballot.
Recently, the NLRB issued three important rulings that will make it easier for workplaces to unionize. In the first, its members overturned a previous ruling that gave workers the right to ask for a secret ballot vote after an employer's decision to recognize a union based on card check.
In another, the NLRB will allow unions to certify individual departments of a company, rather than requiring it to certify the whole full shop. This means that some people working at the same store could be unionized while others would not be, simply because they work in different areas of the business.
The third ruling will make it harder for employees (or a new owner of a unionized business) to challenge the existence of a union when a company is sold. Now, employees or a new owner will have to wait a "reasonable period" and give the union a "fair chance."
For many union leaders and union activists, the NLRB's moves are welcome news - particularly on card check. What could be wrong with making it easier to organize collectively?
It seems obituaries for the Employee Free Choice Act were premature. The point of that (thankfully) dead legislation was to amend the National Labor Relations Act to eliminate the need for a secret ballot vote before a union was accredited. This would have made unionization easier, but the proposed law was soundly rejected by Congress. It should have ended at that.
A zillion things are wrong with card check -- and you can thank Canada for tipping you off.,. Four of the ten Canadian provinces use a card check regime for union certification, and the harm done is massively documented. The province of Quebec, for example, has a unionization rate of nearly 40%. In America, the rate is close to 12%. Card check harms investment, curtails job creation and increases unemployment.
Small businesses most get hurt the most.. Unlike major corporations, which are much easier to scapegoat as villains, small businesses are the main losers in card check because they have fewer resources to fight off big labor before and after the organizing drive. Big corporations have the financial means at their disposal to discourage unionization – including increasing salaries. Small companies do not, and as a result cannot compete.
The most important problem with card check, however is its explicit destruction of individual rights. As explained by John Kline, a Republican Representative from Minnesota: "It is beyond me how one can possibly claim that a system whereby everyone – your employer, your union organizer, and your co-workers - knows exactly how you vote on the issue of unionization gives an employee 'free choice.'"
Workers sometimes sign union authorization cards not because they intend to vote for the union, but to avoid offending the person who asked them to sign; or because, bluntly, they feel coerced. By removing the secret ballot, there is simply no way for employees to protect their privacy and their vote -- human rights that need and deserve to be protected.
The only benefit of card check is to strengthen American unions at a time when they need to be kept at bay. It will not make union representation more accountable to unionized workers, it will not ensure a more effective workplace and it will not make for a better relationship between employers and employees.
The NLRA's resuscitation of card check only means a slower economic recovery, no free choice, no privacy and no workplace justice. This unaccountable, appointed body needs to be reined in.