Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Union Intimidation, Windy City Style

Yesterday, the AFL-CIO claimed that their recently released report on public sector union organizing cases in Illinois was proof-positive that unions never intimidate, threaten, or coerce workers to sign union cards.

Of course, if you believe that, then I have a Senate seat in Illinois I’d like to sell you.

Consider the following:

  • The study makes a point the AFL-CIO probably isn’t too keen to publicize. After Gov. Blagojevich signed the state’s card check bill into law for public sector employees, the use of secret ballot elections for organizing employees nearly vanished from existence. In fact, the report notes that card check “accounted for the overwhelming majority of the cases (90.4 percent) and employees unionized (87.6 percent).” (For those of you just joining us, private sector employees are covered by the federal National Labor Relations Act, which the deceptively-named Employee Free Choice Act would amend to allow card check). And, the report notes, in the few cases where an election was held, the card check petitions “were converted to representation elections because another union intervened and also petitioned to be the bargaining agent.” The bottom line is simple: the AFL-CIO’s own research indicates that once card check becomes law, unions seldom, if ever, call for secret ballot elections.
  • With respect to the study’s top-line findings–that public sector unions did not intimidate employees–the study makes the fundamental flaw of assuming that public and private sector organizing drives are comparable. They are not. Illinois’ card check law was signed into law by now-indicted Gov. Blagojevich, whose largest contributor was the Service Employees International Union. As we’ve written about before, Blagojevich received a number of conveniently-timed $200,000 contributions from SEIU at the same time as the union was unionizing nearly 50,000 state employees. Under Blagojevich, the state practically tripped over itself promoting unionization. With respect to unionizing the private sector, the situation is much different. Employees hear both the positive and negative aspects of joining a union. That’s when the union brings out the big guns of intimidation, threats, coercion, violence, etc.
  • According to the National Labor Relations Board’s Case Tracking database, since 2003 the NLRB’s 13th Region (which encompasses Chicago) has received 40 Unfair Labor Practices (ULP) for “Coercive Statements,” 18 ULPs for “Threatening Statements,” 15 ULPs for “Violence/Assaults,” 8 ULPs for “Harassment,” and 1350 ULPs for failing to fairly represent union members (Duty of Fair Representation). Nationally, the numbers are even more staggering. Since 2003 the NLRB has received:
    Allegation ULP Complaints
    Coercive Statements 1,105
    Threatening Statements 930
    Harassment 401
    Violence/Assaults 184
    Discipline (including charges/fines) 179
    Interrogation 26
Categories: AFL-CIOCenter for Union FactsEFACEnding Secret Ballots