So, there’s been a document floating around Capitol Hill that just dropped into my little paws. It was described as a “draft” by the person who passed it on…and it makes for interesting reading on a topic that is really what this whole debate in labor is about: organizing.
With a very sexy and inspiring title “Labor Union Recognition Procedures: Use of Secret Ballots And Card Checks,” the May 23rd draft comes out of the Congressional Research Service, which takes on research projects for Members of Congress. Technically, the reports are not for the public but you can usually get a copy if you ask a friendly Member of Congress.
A staffer for Rep. George Miller (D-CA) tells me that the report has gone almost unnoticed because it was ordered up by Republicans—and they don’t like what it says so they are trying to bury it. Namely, that card check recognition leads to more unionization than the standard representation elections. Well, duh—labor’s been making that argument before. But, this report gives some factual ammunition to the argument.
For the wet-behind-the-ears, I’ve written about card check several times, including in this article for Tom Paine.com. You can read the whole thing and come back...or just check out the Utne Reader version that follows: “as the name suggests, the workers literally sign a card that expresses support for the union; then, a neutral third party checks the cards, and, by previous agreement, if a majority indicate their support for the union, the employer recognizes the union and the parties sit down to bargain a contract over wages, benefits, job security and other issues. The beauty of the card check initiative is that it effectively eliminates the campaign of intimidation that employers routinely embark upon during a union organizing drive.”
There's a whole bunch of dense crap about "economic efficiency" but there are two relevant points in this very dry report (Hemingway, this guy isn’t):
1. The most powerful argument for card check comes from data in Canada, where labor laws are better than in the U.S. Even in Canada, the success rate for card check recognition was 9 percent higher than under a mandatory voting system i.e., a secret ballot election. In the province of British Columbia, card check was allowed until 1984, revoked from 1984 through 1992 and, then, reinstated in 1992. During the 11 years with card check until 1984, the union success rate was 91 percent; when only mandatory voting was used, the union success rate was 73 percent.
2. If you add neutrality to card check (that is, when an employer agrees not to try to beat the psychological crap out of workers and stays out of the debate over the union), success rates in the U.S. are 16 percent higher than when just card check is used.
An interesting footnote on page 6: “Some evidence indicates that within three years of winning an election, approximately one-fourth of unions have not reached a first contract with the employer.” Translation: even when workers do have the guts to fend off a company’s terror campaign and they vote for the union, the company extends the war and refuses to bargain fairly.
So, it’s not coincidence that the report has been buried by Republicans, who are trying to outlaw card check via the Orwellian sounding “Secret Ballot Protection Act of 2005" introduced by that dolt Rep. Charlie Norwood. It's competing with a bill introduced by Miller in the House and Ted Kennedy in the Senate, called the “Employee Free Choice Act,” which would effectively ratify the “card check” procedure.
The good Miller-Kennedy bill has zero chance of passing anytime before the next Ice Age (well, come to think of it, that’s pretty darn close) since you need 60 votes in the Senate to get it through—and there are more than a few Democrats who are pathetic when it comes to labor rights (except when it comes to their right to collect campaign contributions). So, I've been a bit skeptical about all the hoohah and resources poured in by unions to support this bill.
Anyway, here’s the full report. Pass it around. And comment.