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House Eases Rules on Union Organizing

Old 03-02-07, 10:27 AM
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House Eases Rules on Union Organizing

By JIM ABRAMS, Associated Press Writer

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070302/...o/house_unions

Democrats rewarded organized labor Thursday for helping them retake control of Congress, passing a House bill that would make it easier for workers to start unions against companies' wishes.

The legislation, passed 241-185 on a nearly party-line vote, would take away the right of employers to demand secret-ballot elections by workers before unions could be recognized.

"It's simply about establishing fairness in the workplace," said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md. Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio said the real issue was "taking care of union bosses."

The House action was the second triumph for labor following the Democratic takeover of Congress. The House and Senate also have voted on separate bills to raise the minimum wage.

Labor groups saw the Employee Free Choice Act as one way of halting the downward trend of union membership, now about 12 percent of the work force.

The celebrations may be short-lived. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has pledged to block the bill and the White House says President Bush will veto the measure if it reaches his desk.

The House vote was short of the two-thirds majority that would be needed to overturn a veto. Thirteen Republicans voted for the measure; two Democrats voted against it.

Labor groups contend that secret-ballot elections have become a means for employers to intimidate workers into rejecting unions.

"In the past few decades, labor law has been so twisted by corporations and their union-busting hired guns that it is now virtually impossible to form a union against an employer's wishes," AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said.

Business groups campaigned against the bill, saying it is an affront to democratic principles and would give high-pressure organizers unimpeded access to workers.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the bill was "the most important labor law reform legislation of this generation."

"It is about basic labor rights, about the rule of the majority free from intimidation and about protecting jobs," she said.

Boehner said the bill really was about "taking care of union bosses. ... This is an effort to help them get more members, to make it easier for them to sign them up and to intimidate them to sign cards."

The legislation, also called the card check bill, would certify a union as soon as a majority of workers at a plant signed cards authorizing it. Currently, employers can require elections, overseen by the National Labor Relations Board, on whether a union should be recognized.

The labor rights group American Rights at Work said that, in the run-up to such elections, 80 percent of employers hire union-busting consultants and 90 percent force employees to attend one-on-one anti-union meetings with their supervisors.

The legislation would toughen penalties against employers who violate worker rights during organizing drives and set up a binding arbitration process to prevent companies from thwarting a new union by bargaining in bad faith on an initial contract.

"In many places, when you exercise your right to organize, you get fired, you get intimidated, you get harassed, you get followed home," said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee.

But Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon of California, top Republican on the committee, said the bill would take away basic rights to a secret ballot. "That right is squarely in the cross hairs and this chamber is about to pull the trigger," he said before the vote.

McKeon offered a substitute guaranteeing rights to a secret ballot, but it was defeated 256-173.

Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, in a statement issued after the final vote, said it was a sad day when the House "votes to deprive workers of their basic right to a private ballot election."

Labor organizations cite employer coercion as a major factor in the steadily falling percentage of workers who are organized. Union membership has dropped from 20 percent of wage and salary workers in 1983 to 12 percent in 2006. Discounting civil servants, that percentage is 7.4 percent, the Labor Department says.

Unions lost 300,000 dues-paying members last year alone, said one opponent of the bill, Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill. "But just because only 12 percent of Americans now choose to pay into a union is no reason to attack our rights as Americans to a secret ballot."

The White House made a similar argument Wednesday in issuing a veto threat. "It is a fundamental tenet of democracy that individuals are able to vote their conscience, privately, free from the threat of reprisal," the White House said.

Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., sponsor of similar legislation in the Senate, said he would introduce it soon.

McConnell, in a statement, indicated Senate Republicans would make every effort to stop its progress. "We will not allow the progress already made on behalf of U.S. workers to be undone," he said in a statement.
____________

I have seldom seen a bill so misrepresented on the floor as this bill was by the Republican opposition. 'It would take away the secret ballot.' Horseshit!! It would do nothing of the kind. If a majority of the workers wanted a secret ballot - a secret ballot there would be. It simply denies the company the dictatorial right they've had in the past.

Last edited by classicman2; 03-02-07 at 10:33 AM.
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Old 03-02-07, 10:39 AM
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So they made it just as easy to drop union representation too, right?
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Old 03-02-07, 11:19 AM
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Originally Posted by classicman2
'It would take away the secret ballot.' Horseshit!!
I agree... it sounds like they've done away w/ the vote altogether (secret ballot or not)
http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/.../~c110OGIath::
Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, whenever a petition shall have been filed by an employee or group of employees or any individual or labor organization acting in their behalf alleging that a majority of employees in a unit appropriate for the purposes of collective bargaining wish to be represented by an individual or labor organization for such purposes, the Board shall investigate the petition. <b>If the Board finds that a majority of the employees in a unit appropriate for bargaining has signed valid authorizations designating the individual or labor organization specified in the petition as their bargaining representative and that no other individual or labor organization is currently certified or recognized as the exclusive representative of any of the employees in the unit, <u>the Board shall not direct an election</u> but shall certify the individual or labor organization as the representative described in subsection (a).</b>
Now since this bill is a modification of existing law maybe there is something elsewhere that says an election is optional. As read above though it looks like the vote is no longer...


http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1172656995553
Legislation working its way through Congress that would radically change the way unions are formed, by eliminating the decades-old union election process, has employers worried on a number of levels.

The bill would allow workers to form unions by signing cards instead of voting, which employers claim would leave them in the dark about organizing activity, giving them no chance to give workers a heads-up about the potential pitfalls of unions.

The measure would require employers to recognize unions after 51 percent of workers have signed authorization cards. An election would no longer be required.

The bill would impose stiffer penalties -- triple back pay and a $20,000 fine per violation -- for companies that unlawfully discriminate, intimidate or fire employees during organizing efforts. And for cases in which unions and employers can't reach an agreement, the bill would allow an arbitrator to draft the initial contract.

The bill, known as the Employee Free Choice Act, has a strong chance of approval in the now Democratic-controlled Congress. It has 233 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, including Republicans, and cleared a House committee last week. A Senate version is also in the works in Senator Ted Kennedy's office, which expects to release the bill in coming weeks.

STEALTH ORGANIZING

"If this bill passes and is enacted into law, it will make every company in the country immediately vulnerable to unionization ... .Even if you're a small employer with 15 employees, if eight of your employees sign cards, you're organized. And a contract can been imposed on you," asserted attorney Marty Payson. His law firm, Jackson Lewis, has scheduled several upcoming seminars with clients to warn them about the measure.

"Under this bill, the union can engage in stealth organizing and, in fact, stay underground soliciting cards in a way that employers may never be aware of, and then surface when they have that technical 51 percent," said Payson, a partner in Jackson Lewis' White Plains, N.Y., office.

Pro-labor organizers say the measure is long overdue.

According to congressional backers of the bill, employers illegally fire employees for union activity in 25 pecent of organizing drives. Also, 70 percent of employers in the manufacturing sector threaten to relocate their plants during organizing drives.

"It's very clear that a very high percentage of workers want to unionize but they can't navigate the system the way that it exists because they're afraid," said Craig Becker, associate general counsel for the Service Employees International Union, which represents 1.3 million workers, many of them hospital support staff.

Becker believes that the new bill, by eliminating the secret-ballot election and imposing tougher penalties for union-busting tactics, will reduce litigation in the area of what is appropriate campaign conduct in an election process.

But Charles Cohen, who recently testified against the bill on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, believes that the bill goes too far in attempting to silence employers and limit the amount of information employees have before deciding to join a union.

"Employers' biggest fear is that unions will, by force of the government, obtain recognition rights for all employees without there being an informed choice," said Cohen, a partner in Morgan, Lewis & Bockius' Washington office. "It's really the employees that are losing by not having the benefit of both sides of the story."

Another downside to the measure is that it will strip employees of their rights to privacy when deciding whether to join a union, said attorney Jim Hendricks of Atlanta-based Fisher & Phillips' Chicago office.

"Since the 1930s, employees have had the right to have a private secret ballot election under no pressure from anybody. This takes that away," Hendricks said. "This is a big deal to employers. The ones that have been virtually impossible to organize -- Starbucks and McDonald's -- where unions couldn't really get to them, this way it could be a slam dunk."

Hendricks said that his firm has been working vigorously to notify companies about the pending legislation, encouraging them to lobby Congress and voice their concerns.

"It's going to trigger a great deal of 'unfair labor practice' charges that you don't necessarily have today," Hendricks said. "You're going to have an employer who's going to start acting differently when they realize there's union organizing going on, because there won't be an election."

Last edited by nemein; 03-02-07 at 12:10 PM.
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Old 03-02-07, 11:22 AM
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I wonder if Pelosi will finally allow her workers to unionize.....nah.
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Old 03-02-07, 11:40 AM
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Why do we have the right to organize anyway? If we're dissatisfied can't we just simply quit? Or not hire on at all? No wonder business has outsourced so much work to other countries.

To me, business should have the right to offer whatever salary/benefits package they want. It's their business to run as they see fit. If I don't like the offer, I can always go elsewhere for employment. Or negotiate. I don't want unions to negotiate for me. I don't appreciate the fact that I have no say in where my union dues go.

I worked for a union shop once, loading toys into the back of trucks. I noted while I was there that the workers took constant breaks. A few minutes here, a few minutes there, which did add up over time. When I asked one of them about it, he said that the company thinks it's reasonable for them to load 2 and a half trucks per shift. Once they started to load more, they would be expected to load more from that point on. It was my first experience with a union and I was shocked.

More recently, my mother's husband was fired for wrecking a fork lift, amongst other things. The union got him his job back. What's up with that? He's a screw up. Constantly calling in sick. Constantly late. Why doesn't the company have a right to fire him and hire someone else that would actually increase productivity? The company got strong armed by the union and now they're stuck with him.

I'm all for a living wage. I'm all for fairness. But at what cost?
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Old 03-02-07, 12:15 PM
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All this does is make workers more open to intimidation by both the unions and the employers.
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Old 03-02-07, 12:48 PM
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I'm also curious as to what the phrase "a unit appropriate for the purposes of collective bargaining" really means. Hopefully it's spelled out succintly somewhere (although I doubt it) otherwise it seems you could run into situations in which specific stores in a chain or specific groups of individuals within individual stores may unionize. The whole thing sounds like it's going to bring about more chaos to me.
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Old 03-02-07, 02:35 PM
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As long as employers are allowed to fire all of them after they unionize, no problem. That's in there, right?
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Old 03-02-07, 03:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Disc Jockey
Why do we have the right to organize anyway? If we're dissatisfied can't we just simply quit? Or not hire on at all? No wonder business has outsourced so much work to other countries.

To me, business should have the right to offer whatever salary/benefits package they want. It's their business to run as they see fit. If I don't like the offer, I can always go elsewhere for employment. Or negotiate. I don't want unions to negotiate for me. I don't appreciate the fact that I have no say in where my union dues go.

I worked for a union shop once, loading toys into the back of trucks. I noted while I was there that the workers took constant breaks. A few minutes here, a few minutes there, which did add up over time. When I asked one of them about it, he said that the company thinks it's reasonable for them to load 2 and a half trucks per shift. Once they started to load more, they would be expected to load more from that point on. It was my first experience with a union and I was shocked.

More recently, my mother's husband was fired for wrecking a fork lift, amongst other things. The union got him his job back. What's up with that? He's a screw up. Constantly calling in sick. Constantly late. Why doesn't the company have a right to fire him and hire someone else that would actually increase productivity? The company got strong armed by the union and now they're stuck with him.

I'm all for a living wage. I'm all for fairness. But at what cost?


Great post!
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Old 03-02-07, 04:25 PM
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I've found it be prudent to have a healthy skepticism about anecdotal evidence.
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Old 03-02-07, 04:31 PM
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Originally Posted by classicman2
I've found it be prudent to have a healthy skepticism about anecdotal evidence.
How about the text of the bill that makes it look like people can organize w/o the company knowing (until the last minute) and w/o a vote?
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Old 03-02-07, 04:51 PM
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classicman2, yes, all my evidence is anecdotal. It doesn't make my experiences any less true, however.

Perhaps those are unusual circumstances. I don't know much about unions in general, just about the two involved in those situations. I just used those examples to illustrate my point.

I see the benefits to employees, but if I were a company owner, I'd opt out of the system altogether. I just don't see what right the government has to interfere in the way one runs a business in this regard. Market forces should dictate that.

I'm not convinced by either side of this argument.
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Old 03-02-07, 05:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Disc Jockey
Why do we have the right to organize anyway? If we're dissatisfied can't we just simply quit? Or not hire on at all? No wonder business has outsourced so much work to other countries.

To me, business should have the right to offer whatever salary/benefits package they want. It's their business to run as they see fit. If I don't like the offer, I can always go elsewhere for employment. Or negotiate. I don't want unions to negotiate for me. I don't appreciate the fact that I have no say in where my union dues go.

I worked for a union shop once, loading toys into the back of trucks. I noted while I was there that the workers took constant breaks. A few minutes here, a few minutes there, which did add up over time. When I asked one of them about it, he said that the company thinks it's reasonable for them to load 2 and a half trucks per shift. Once they started to load more, they would be expected to load more from that point on. It was my first experience with a union and I was shocked.

More recently, my mother's husband was fired for wrecking a fork lift, amongst other things. The union got him his job back. What's up with that? He's a screw up. Constantly calling in sick. Constantly late. Why doesn't the company have a right to fire him and hire someone else that would actually increase productivity? The company got strong armed by the union and now they're stuck with him.

I'm all for a living wage. I'm all for fairness. But at what cost?
Well, if capitalists like Andrew Carnegie hadn't insisted on seven day work weeks, with a 24 hour shift every other week thrown in for good measure, paid wages that were barely enough to pay for the basic necessities, and brutalized employees with Pinkerton guards, maybe people would not have developed these "fuck the company" attitudes that are unfortunately reinforced by the union system.

Go read up on the Homestead strike of 1892 and tell me if people don't deserve the right to organize.
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Old 03-02-07, 05:29 PM
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Perhaps we should look to update some of the labor since 1892.

Unions are about being pissed about the past.
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Old 03-02-07, 05:47 PM
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Union laws are pretty complicated already. It's almost like the tax code.

Why haven't there been calls from either side to reform by simplifying?

That's probably my biggest problem with the issue - the stupid and boring rules.
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Old 03-02-07, 06:30 PM
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Labor groups contend that secret-ballot elections have become a means for employers to intimidate workers into rejecting unions.

I am confused. How do secret ballots, even if they are forced by the company, intimidate workers? Isn't the point of secret ballots that people can vote how they want free of intimidation?

If secret ballots are good enough for this country, why aren't they good enough for unions?
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Old 03-02-07, 07:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Venusian
I am confused. How do secret ballots, even if they are forced by the company, intimidate workers? Isn't the point of secret ballots that people can vote how they want free of intimidation?

If secret ballots are good enough for this country, why aren't they good enough for unions?
Because they might lose.
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Old 03-02-07, 07:12 PM
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I will look up the strike Jason, it sounds like a fascinating read. But the circumstances in 2007 are quite a bit different. There is more competition in many fields for skilled labor. The government itself has in place many laws governing the workplace. Unions, it seems to me are unnecessary in this day and age.

1892 was a long time ago.
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Old 03-02-07, 09:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Venusian
I am confused. How do secret ballots, even if they are forced by the company, intimidate workers? Isn't the point of secret ballots that people can vote how they want free of intimidation?

If secret ballots are good enough for this country, why aren't they good enough for unions?
Surely you jest.
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Old 03-02-07, 09:18 PM
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Originally Posted by classicman2
Surely you jest.
I guess that settles it then.
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Old 03-02-07, 09:50 PM
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Originally Posted by classicman2
Surely you jest.
Very compelling argument...I applaud your consistancy.
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Old 03-02-07, 09:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Venusian
I am confused. How do secret ballots, even if they are forced by the company, intimidate workers? Isn't the point of secret ballots that people can vote how they want free of intimidation?

If secret ballots are good enough for this country, why aren't they good enough for unions?
Because the pinkie ring boys can't twist arms as effectively when everyone's gathered for a secret ballot. Its a lot easier to tell someone they're going to have an "accident" if they don't sign a card when its one on one,
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Old 03-02-07, 11:07 PM
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yeah it's just another anecdote, but I wasn't too impressed by my union employment
dues that were taking out after I paid taxes, union steward's son getting hired at 14 under the table, getting paid less per hour but since there were no taxes or dues taken out he actually took home more for less hours than the majority of employees

unions had their place, and there are still some cases where they're needed to some extent. but for the most part I don't think they're all that good anymore
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Old 03-03-07, 12:15 AM
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Originally Posted by classicman2
Surely you jest.
I do not. Please explain it to me.


If the company is pressuring the people not to create a union and it is NOT a secret ballot and the union is NOT created, wouldn't the company be able to retaliate against those who voted for the union?
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Old 03-03-07, 01:11 AM
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Originally Posted by classicman2
Surely you jest.
Can you elaborate, or is this one of those things that is self evident if you support unions without question?
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