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It’s Time to Stop Card Check

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When the Republican party was founded it formed around a nucleus of anti-slavery activists and northern labor reformers. They saw that the larger economic and political issue of the time, of which the abolition of slavery was only a part, was the idea of free labor. Slave labor was not free, and neither were workers in the industrial towns of the northeast who were in debt bondage to their employers. These 19th century liberals believed in free markets for the products of agriculture and industry and in a free market for labor, where workers were free to choose where they worked and to negotiate fair terms of employment based on market wages.

Abraham Lincoln was willing to go to war over this principle and hundreds of thousands fought and died to secure the right to live and work in an environment of freedom. In that era there was an understanding that labor and capital worked hand in hand for mutual benefit. This relationship was recognized in the Republican Party Platform of 1872:

Among the questions which press for attention is that which concerns the relations of capital and labor, and the Republican party recognizes the duty of so shaping legislation as to secure full protection and the amplest field for capital, and for labor — the creator of capital — the largest opportunities and a just share of the mutual profits of these two great servants of civilization.

Today there are those who would upset the balance between labor and capital and who would love to see an end to free labor and a return to a closed and controlled labor market where workers no longer have access to a free market of wages and opportunities. At the urging of labor unions who seek to establish monopolistic control over the workforce, Congressional Democrats led by Rep. George Miller (D-CA) have introduced a bill ironically titled the Employee Free Choice Act (HR1409). This act would take free choice away from workers and force unionization on workers in businesses nationwide without consideration of their best interests or preferences.

This bill, also known as "Card Check," would take away the right which workers currently have under the National Labor Relations Act to decide whether or not to join a union under the protection of a secret ballot. The EFCA would instead allow a public vote with no protection for the rights of workers and do so using deceptively worded authorization cards where the mere action of agreeing to hold a vote may obligate workers to accept unionization. If a vote is held, the public nature of the vote will subject workers to intimidation, peer-pressure and coercion from union operatives, making it easy to bully them into joining. If card check passes, workers will be coerced into joining unions against their will, swelling union treasuries with billions of dollars that will go to support the same Democrat politicians who have been promoting this bill.

A study from the National Institute for Labor Relations Research found that forced unionization hurts businesses, workers and the economy by slowing employment growth. Over the five years from 2002 to 2007, private-sector jobs in Right to Work states increased from 40.92 million to 44.85 million, or 9.6%. In this same period, states which forced unionization on private-sector employers saw much smaller job growth, from 67.27 million to 69.72 million, a gain of just 3.6%. At a time when we're losing hundreds of thousands of jobs a month, placing roadblocks in the way of private employers is pure madness.

It's vitally important that government protect the right of workers to organize and form unions and negotiate freely for better wages and working conditions. But this does not mean allowing workers to be forced into unions against their will and when it is not in their best interests. Protecting the rights of workers includes protecting their right to privacy and to decide whether to join a union on their own terms without intimidation or interference. Card Check is designed to unbalance the relationship between unions and employers, between labor and capital and impose union membership whether it is needed or not, doing particular harm to smaller businesses where it is unnecessary and often causes prohibitive costs and job cuts.

With 224 co-sponsors, EFCA is almost certain to pass the House, so the best hope for stopping it is in the Senate where it does have 46 sponsors, but where Republicans and some responsible Democrats could still block passage. Key Democratic Senators who might vote against Card Check include Baucus (MT), Begich (AK), Bennet (CO), Dorgan (ND), Lincoln (AR) and Pryor (AR). Republicna Senators Snowe and Collins from Maine could also play a deciding role. You can contact these Senators and let them know that you believe in a free market for labor where government protects workers rights, not the ambitions of union bosses. We fought a Civil War to ensure that we would have an economy based on free labor. Workers who are forced to join a union are not free.

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About Dave Nalle

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Dave,

    What’s odd, Dave, that in the present conditions when jobs are so hard to come by, the unions would be presenting another stumbling block.

    It just doesn’t make sense. Nobody seems to give a hoot anymore whether we recover or not, they’re only concerned with protecting their own, narrowly defined self-interests, even if the country ends up going to hell in a handbasket.

    Roger

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Dave,

    There may be a deeper intent, by the way. To polarize the country even further – as if it wasn’t polarized enough already – a create a class structure, relatively absent in America (as opposed to some of the European countries). And there goes the notion of egalitarianism.

    It’s one thing to create a better system of oversight so as to prevent business abuses, quite another to try to engage in antagonistic politics.

    Roger

  • David

    You are incorrect. EFCA does not “take away free choice.” You only have to read the text of the bill to see that it in no way impacts a workers right to secret ballot. What it does do, for workers who choose to opt out of the unfair NLRB election process, is provide an alternative. A choice.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    It would help, David, if you were to spell out the NLRB “election process” so we could decide.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    The NLRB process was designed to protect workers rights. It’s only unfair to union organizers who want to coerce people into joining a union against their will and best interests.

    Since I wrote this article I’ve been doing some more research and I’m shocked and dismayed to find that the unions and their lobbyists have been mounting fake protests in support of Card Check in DC and nationwide where paid union stooges pretend to be concerned workers and march around chanting pre-scripted slogans promoting the cause. It’s the most reprehensible example of fake populism I’ve seen in quite a while.

    Dave

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Why should you be dismayed, Dave? It’s a power play, like any other. But I do think this development is a sign of the politics of division precisely at the time when the country ought to be , to the extent possible, united. Formation of waring economic classes in America doesn’t make for a promising future.

  • David

    What the NLRB process does is give all the power to managers, rather than workers. Corporate bosses make all the choices – when to hold the election (if ever), who can speak to employees, what information is given to workers about the union, what workers can say to the media, etc.

    Of course, bosses do it all in the best interest of their workers because, you know, workin’ folks are just too dumb to know what’s best for themselves.

    The NLRB process is a sham and bares no resemblance to American democracy.

  • Doug Hunter

    “But I do think this development is a sign of the politics of division precisely at the time when the country ought to be , to the extent possible, united.”

    Exactly right. Divide union and non union, white vs black, gay vs straight, male vs female, rich vs poor. Complancny and cumbayah don’t get people to the polls… fear, mistrust, and hatred do. This is the strategy executed flawlessly by the current political powers.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Yes, that’s the underlying theme that Dave should address.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    You just gave me the idea, Doug, for my next piece. I’m certain there have been other policy decisions and/or laws in the making which aim at the very same thing. It’s putting political power above the welfare of the nation.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    For those who can’t get enough of this issue, check out the accompanying video now added on page 2.

    As for the underlying theme of division, I do address it. Division is natural and desirable. There’s supposed to be a balance in the economy between the power of management and the power of labor. When business receives special privileges from government the balance is upset. When unions receive special privileges (as with this bill) the balance is upset in the other direction.

    Dave

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Dave,

    Well, if you’re talking about division as far as competition is concerned, I agree. But this smacks of an attempt to divide the society along class lines.

    Not in accord, I should say, with the American creed.

    Roger

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Dave,

    Just listened to the video. It’s great and you should try to make it part and parcel of your written submissions, especially when it matters. I spoken word has so much greater appeal, and you’re doing it extremely well. If I were you, I would try to make it more public than BC. (What’s the technology?)

    I understand that in the fire-chat context, the ideological divide I am hinting at would not go that well. I can’t help, however, but suspect that that may well be at the bottom of bills like that – divisive politics.

    Again, great job.

    Roger

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Divisive politics are at the bottom of almost anything if that’s what you’re looking for. In the case of Card Check, however, it’s more a case of the desire for enhanced power. Unions have lost a lot of ground in key states and they see an opportunity to get some of it back in a big way. In conjunction, politicians see a chance to profit from happy, rich and generous union supporters.

    On the other side, I can mostly only speak for myself. My experience with unions has been very negative. I’ve had the opportunity to join a union twice. In both cases the methods used in recruiting were very heavy handed and coercive. But since that time I’ve seen other things which trouble me a lot. I really dislike paid faux activism and the unions are the masters of it. They pay people to pretend to be WalMart employees on picket lines. They operate through multiple front groups with deceptive pseudoagendas all the time. They’re distressingly underhanded and corrupt.

    Glad you liked the video. It’s up on YouTube and on the RLC site along with a version of this article. I did it in one take and haven’t gotten good enough with iMovie yet to edit out the ums and ahs, but I’m working on it.

    Dave

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I may agree with you that unions per se don’t look beyond. But why should the politicians be pushing for this kind of legislation here and now? It won’t make me a conspiracy theorist, but I still have to ask.

    Anyway, that surely was an enhancement.

    Roger

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    Dave doesn’t bother to address the main argument of pro-Card Check folks: that under current rules, a ‘secret ballot’ election has been abused many times by many corporations to intimidate workers, fire union supporters, etc. Elections don’t occur immediately, and the time between announcement and voting is when the abuse has occurred.

    Dave talks about intimidation from union organizers. There’s nothing good about that either. But this kind of one-sided argument, where you ignore a significant chunk of the real issues, is propaganda, not reasoned discussion.

    Recommended article, from the front page of yesterday’s NY Times, covering both perspectives of the issue in a particular case involving nurses. The specifics make it easier to understand how both sides distort this issue rather than honestly discussing it.

    Painting the unions as bad guys is tunnel-vision nonsense.

  • Baronius

    Interesting article, Handy, but considering that the management was breaking already-existing laws, why shouldn’t we simply enforce the laws on the books?

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    We should.

    But if a majority of the workers sign a card saying they want a union, and then in a secret ballot the union loses, something is out of whack. Neither side is being completely honest and above board in arguing this issue.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    I don’t know whether any of you have watched Dave’s video, but he does make a compelling case for the kind of coercion that exists with open ballots.

    That alone is something to consider.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    There is coercion from both sides, and it’s hard to prove in court. That doesn’t mean we should pretend one side has a monopoly on fairness or unfairness.

  • Baronius

    If the majority of workers sign cards while a unionizer is watching, then vote against a union in private, that sure does tell us something.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Not just that. As Dave portrayed it (in the video), there’s also the peer pressure.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    I think you know that isn’t the only way to interpret such a situation. One shouldn’t have to twist facts or interpretations to ‘win’ an argument.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    What other way is there?

  • Baronius

    Handy, was comment #23 directed to me?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Dave –

    There are good and bad about unions. Wal-Mart might be seen as a non-union ‘success story’, where they’ve built one of the largest companies in the world…but most of their employees have little or no health care and do not earn a living wage sufficient to support a family – and this is on top of the spate of mandatory unpaid overtime some Wal-Mart managers were enforcing over the past few years.

    A union success story would be the Postal Service – for all you might say against them, they are still by far the most efficient and trustworthy postal service in the history of mankind. In the USPS, one is NOT forced to join the union…but in any labor dispute, the union will still represent you even if you’re not a union member.

    Boeing is another union success story – yes, there are ups and downs and management is quick to blame the unions for everything under the sun, but Boeing is still the biggest and best in the world despite the fact that Airbus gets government subsidies…even though the unions that are supposedly ‘ruining everything’ for Boeing.

    There are bad unions, too – I think the UAW pushed too far with some benefits and this truly hobbled GM. Additionally, I suspect the UAW’s efforts shares an equal blame with management for preventing our auto industry from modernizing and becoming more agile. I heard it takes less than a day for BMW to switch production from one car to another – and if that’s true, that’s something that is as yet unthinkable in America…but I also believe BMW workers are unionized, too.

    Lastly, there’s one HUGE factor that keeps me supporting unions…and that’s the fact that I’ve been a whistleblower before, paid the price (which is no fun in the military), and I shivered when I saw the Bush administration remove nearly all whistleblower protections. The protection of whistleblowers is one of the PRIME duties of unions. If we had set-in-stone protection for whistleblowers, I might take a dimmer view of unions…but until then, I will support them wholeheartedly.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    But Glenn,

    I had a similar experience with a company I worked for in CA. Their checks kept on bouncing so we complained and filed our claims. And got paid.
    The company was non-union.

    I cannot speak unilaterally, but it’d seem there are adequate protections against certain kinds of abuses, and many harassment/discrimination suits have made all employers sensitive.

    I couldn’t comment on the military, of course, because it’s in a different league. But my thinking is – the estrangement between the employers and the workers and the beginnings of a class feud is precisely what we don’t need.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Roger –

    I recommend you check this list about whistleblower issues…and thanks to the Supreme Court, federal whistleblowers have NO protection from retaliation under the First Amendment.

    Now there ARE whistleblower protections in every state…but those protections hold ONLY if the whistleblower has followed the legal procedure to the letter. For example, in Arizona a prospective whistleblower has TEN days to file a complaint from the time of the occurrence. TEN DAYS in which to figure out what is legally required and to begin the process…all while working and supporting a family.

    But I guess we can all be thankful that we don’t live in the uber-conservative business climate of China (or the Philippines, for that matter), wherein a whistleblower simply disappears….

  • Doug Hunter

    “but most of their employees have little or no health care and do not earn a living wage sufficient to support a family”

    That’s part of the rub, should every job no matter how simple or mindless be given a salary to support a family of four on? Every server and checkout attendant and movie ticket taker?

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Handy, I’m sorry, but I don’t see how I twisted and misrepresented anything in this article. Sure, I didn’t present the union’s argument, because IMO it’s unsupportable. There’s no justification for basically tricking people into joining a union or bullying them into doing it.

    Glenn, there has to be a place in the workforce for lower wage workers. WalMart employs mostly part time workers who are homemakers or have another job or are students. A lot of them wouldn’t buy health insurance if given the option or have insurance from another source. Being an employer who benefits from the presence of this sort of worker in the workforce does not make you evil. They are young, they work there as a starter job, and they move on. The trade-off they make for the slightly higher wage at WalMart vs. the lack of benefits seems entirely reasonable, plus it’s entirely voluntary.

    Dave

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doug –

    I understand your point, but check the other side of the coin – should the vast majority of any company be paying less than a living wage?

    Dave –

    WalMart employs mostly part time workers who are homemakers or have another job or are students. A lot of them wouldn’t buy health insurance if given the option or have insurance from another source. Being an employer who benefits from the presence of this sort of worker in the workforce does not make you evil. They are young, they work there as a starter job, and they move on.

    ‘mostly part time workers who are homemakers or have another job or are students’? Where did you get this from? I DEFY you to show me a credible reference of such.

    FYI, I remember seeing few if any employee’s who are student age. There’s a good friend of mine – retired Navy, 80% disabled, essentially unemployable. His wife – a Wal-Mart employee – is the primary breadwinner. Her autistic son rides the same school bus as my medically-fragile Foster children. When I go to Wal-Mart most of the workers I see are about her age.

    What I find most egregious is your ASSUMPTION that most employees wouldn’t buy health insurance if given the option, because you’re assuming that these MOTHERS would not want health care coverage for their children.

    Dave, you’re usually pretty good about presenting facts, but I’m calling you out on this. Show PROOF of your beliefs, or have the intestinal fortitude to own up to your error.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Glenn, about a year ago I extensively researched WalMart worker demographics for an article, and the data bore out what I posted here. Unfortunately the research notes have temporarily vanished off of my server. I have a trouble report in to find out what happened to them.

    I went to find the sources again, but google is now so swamped with clone sites from union front groups bashing walmart that it’s almost impossible to find any of the neutral sources I used previously. But bear with me, I’ll dig the stuff up somehow.

    Certainly your description of WalMart employees doesn’t match what I’ve seen here in Texas. Here the employees are overwhelmingly young and clearly in transitional or starter jobs.

    I’ll be back with the hard facts eventually, because your ‘evidence’ is anecodatal — as is almost everything you find on the walmart bashing sites.

    Dave

  • Clavos

    A union success story would be the Postal Service – for all you might say against them, they are still by far the most efficient and trustworthy postal service in the history of mankind.

    Efficient? The USPS? The USPS, which is projected to lose $3 Billion in 2009?

    The USPS that is a nightmare of featherbedding work rules fostered on inept and powerless administrative teams for decades? Where the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) dictates the number of stops permitted in postal routes? The USPS where merit pay and promotions are nonexistent? Where it is nearly impossible to fire an employee for just cause? The same USPS which is proposing (requesting) to reduce their work week by a day to save money?

    This would be the same USPS which is getting its ass kicked by private carriers FedEx and UPS in terms of efficiency, reliability AND net revenues? The private firms could finish the job forthwith (and may) if they are ever allowed to carry First Class mail.

    In the USPS, one is NOT forced to join the union…but in any labor dispute, the union will still represent you even if you’re not a union member.

    No thanks to the magnanimous and generous hearts of union leaders, but because they are required to by law; a concession they had to make to get their foot in the door decades ago. Peer pressure to join the union is nearly impossible to withstand — few postal employees are able to do so.

  • http://drdreadful.blogspot.com Dr Dreadful

    Agreed, Clav. That’s an unfounded claim in at least two ways.

    The USPS is NOT the most efficient in the world – not even close.

    The British Post Office has been known to successfully deliver letters addressed ‘Grandma Mildred, by the park, Little Chigwood’.

    Its American counterpart claimed to be unable to deliver a letter I sent to Target – you know, that little Mom-and-Pop business in a little tiny shop on Main Street – because I got one digit of the building number wrong.

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    There’s no justification for basically tricking people into joining a union or bullying them into doing it.

    I agree, as I believe I said. And what about bullying them into not joining? Management does not consist entirely of dewy-eyed, innocent angels who have their employees’ best interests in mind…believe it or not.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    Handy, as pointed out earlier there are well established laws prohibiting employers from forcing workers to not unionize. But the truth is that in 90% of workplaces in America the workers have zero interest in unionizing and management treats them decently.

    The left would have you believe that we’re fighting over opening up one or two large, bad employers up to unions (like WalMart), but the truth is that there’s nothing to stop unions once they get a blank check like this, and the fallout for small and mid-sized businesses where unions arne’t really needed will be disastrous.

    Dave

  • http://handyfilm.blogspot.com handyguy

    It’s not a ‘blank check.’ If 51% of workers sign cards, does that have no meaning at all?

    Must everything you write be suffused with propaganda? You are rarely interested in an honest back-and-forth. You take a rigid, hard-right position on an issue like this and inform anyone who disagrees with you that they are agreeing with The Left, as if nothing could be worse.

    By the way, Chris Matthews suggested a compromise that defuses some of the fishy arguments on both sides. 51% of cards checked would trigger an immediate secret ballot election. No ‘campaign period,’ which is when Wal-Mart and other companies use anti-labor pressure tactics on individual employees.

    Pretending that anti-labor pressure is subject to any significant prosecution is laughable. Doesn’t happen.

  • http://www.republicofdave.com Dave Nalle

    It’s not a ‘blank check.’ If 51% of workers sign cards, does that have no meaning at all?

    Actually, the way the cards are worded, just signing them is equivalent to joining the union.

    Must everything you write be suffused with propaganda?

    Having beliefs and an opinion is not propaganda, Handy. We don’t agree. I’m at least open to discussion.

    You are rarely interested in an honest back-and-forth. You take a rigid, hard-right position on an issue like this and inform anyone who disagrees with you that they are agreeing with The Left, as if nothing could be worse.

    It has nothing to do with right and left. It’s right and wrong. It’s rights and their protection vs. coercion and institutionalized deprivation of freedom.

    By the way, Chris Matthews suggested a compromise that defuses some of the fishy arguments on both sides. 51% of cards checked would trigger an immediate secret ballot election. No ‘campaign period,’ which is when Wal-Mart and other companies use anti-labor pressure tactics on individual employees.

    Not a bad suggestion, but that’s NOT what is in this bill.

    Dave

  • Baronius

    Matthews’ plan sounds reasonable.

  • Smellerbee

    Labor under capitalism can never be as powerful as management. It will always be an unequal relationship that is manipulated to managements benefit.

    If card check is slavery then so are taxes and wages.