California and Canada Provide Guidance on Card-Check Legislation

California and Canada Provide Guidance on Card-Check Legislation

Epoch Times (New York, New York), October 29, 2009

The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) is still being fought out in Congress but according to the Wall Street Journal, several Democrats say they could pass a version of the EFCA this year. On this issue, federal legislators can find guidance from California, Canada, and common sense.

The EFCA would discard the secret-ballot vote for union certification. Instead, if 50 percent of workers, plus one, sign union cards, the union will be certified as the workers’ representative. The measure has thus become known as “card check,” even though its provision for government arbitration is also troublesome.

Current law allows workers to check a box on a card if a company approves that arrangement. Union bosses are still pushing for the EFCA, which would not require employers to sign off. Last month Senator Arlen Specter offered a compromise that would speed up secret-ballot elections for union certification rather then dump them altogether. That is also acceptable to some union bosses but militants continue to insist on card check, which also emerged in California with little news coverage.

The adoption of card check resulted in reduced investment, higher unemployment, and less job creation
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg authored SB 789, which would have allowed the United Farm Workers (UFW) to drop the secret ballot and instead simply get workers to sign union cards. The UFW attempted to link the measure to a water bond the governor wanted, and which would have benefitted farm workers. The governor vetoed the card-check bill, explaining: “This process fundamentally alters an employee’s right to a secret-ballot election.”

The action was the fourth time Governor Schwarzenegger has rejected similar card-check provisions. He is on record that he “cannot support this alteration of the secret ballot process.” That is also the heart of objections from prominent liberal Democrats such as former Senator George McGovern, once a candidate for the presidency, and who believes that “voting is an immense privilege.”

George McGovern is “concerned about a new development that could deny this freedom to many Americans. As a longtime friend of labor unions, I must raise my voice against pending legislation [the EFCA] I see as a disturbing and undemocratic overreach not in the interest of either management or labor.” The Canadian experience suggests the former senator has a point.

The provinces of Ontario and British Columbia eliminated secret-ballot voting and introduced card check. As PRI’s Jason Clemens has noted, the negative consequences quickly became evident in reduced investment, higher unemployment, and less job creation. Both provinces reinstated secret-ballot voting for union certification, which helped reverse the economic losses and restore a sense of balance to labor relations.

Under current arrangements, American unions are now winning 63.8 percent of elections, up from 60 percent last year, according the Wall Street Journal. Michael Eastman, executive director of labor policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told the Journal: “Clearly, if the system were broken, they wouldn’t win the majority of elections.” If the system isn’t broken, legislators shouldn’t break it. Indeed, recent abuses by groups such as ACORN, and threats to democracy abroad, should shore up support for the secret ballot in every context.

In a weak economy, and with so much at stake, legislators should also understand that “labor” does not necessarily mean “union.” In 1983, 20.1 percent of American workers were union members, according the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2008, only 12.4 percent of American workers overall, and 7.6 percent in the private sector, are union members.

That means a full 92.4 percent of workers in the private sector are not union members, and 87.6 percent of all workers are not union members. To say, therefore, that unions and their bosses represent American “labor” is every bit as misleading as an Employee Free Choice Act that eliminates the secret-ballot vote.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.