Down in North Carolina, the United Food and Commercial Workers union officials have been up to some strange things. They say they want to unionize a bunch of employees who work for Smithfield Foods, but the union guys won’t let the workers vote on whether they want to join the union. This morning, the local Fayetteville Observer was kind enough to run our op-ed, titled “Union justice isn’t union’s cards”:
Coercion in the card check process is an obvious problem. In 1967, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals concluded: “It would be difficult to imagine a more unreliable method of ascertaining the real wishes of employees than a ‘card check,’ unless it were an employer’s request for an open show of hands.”
Confusion and deception are other problems inherent to card check. Most succinctly, the United States Supreme Court explained that there is a history of abuses “primarily arising out of misrepresentations by union organizers” over whether signing a union card meant you were joining the union, or whether you were just asking for a fair vote.
In 1983, the Seventh Circuit added that some people sign cards “not because they intend to vote for the union in the election but to avoid offending the person who asks them to sign, often a fellow worker, or simply to get the person off their back.”Of all groups to agree, the AFL-CIO in its own guidebook for its organizers has said that cards signed by employees are “at best a signifying intention at a given moment” because “sometimes they are signed to ‘get the union off my back.’” It’s why under normal rules the union often gets a majority of people to sign cards calling for an election and then less than a majority when people vote in private. And that’s precisely what the UFCW is afraid will happen at the Smithfield plant.