Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Arizona Paper Misunderstands EFCA

Sunday’s Arizona Daily Star carried an interesting editorial weighing in on the ongoing UFCW-attacks-Bashas saga. The UFCW hasn’t fared very well in this story (see here and here). The Daily Star rightly noted that this sort of anti-corporate campaign is almost always tied to a “card check” drive — that’s because the kind of labor leaders who turn to PR smear campaigns know they can’t win a real election when employees get to choose. But the paper’s editors seem to misunderstand some aspects of card check organizing.

To wit:

Bashas’ should let the UFCW do its card check drive and give the union the opportunity to fairly present its case to workers. However, the UFCW should agree that Bashas’ can present its case to the employees.

The card check route could prove more difficult for the union, because the majority of eligible employees have to sign cards for union representation — that’s about 7,000 people. But for the secret ballot, it’s a majority of the votes cast, so if 1,000 workers vote and 501 say they want a union, they win, according to NLRB field attorney Richard A. Smith in Phoenix.

Both sides should present their cases, within labor law standards, to the employees without real or perceived smear tactics on either side. And let the people who do the work decide.

That’s the right sentiment, but it’s based on wrong assumptions. The problem with card check campaigns isn’t that they require the union to garner more support — that myth has been debunked by the real life experience of nurses who were forced into a union without even knowing there was an organizing drive going on. Often signed cards aren’t really a true sign of an employee’s intent, anyway.

Just as importantly, UFCW doesn’t really want a card check drive without a so-called “neutrality” clause. These agreements are essentially muzzles on companies, and they are the key to winning card check campaigns. As a top organizing executive from SEIU said, “card check is just the method to gain neutrality.” Why’s that? Because the whole point of labor leaders avoiding elections is really the chance to tell only one side — the union’s side — of the story.

No, card check isn’t the answer here anymore than it would be the answer elsewhere. The only way to really allow employees to hear both sides and vote their conscience is still the secret ballot election.