Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Desperate UAW Digs in for Chattanooga Fight

Class Election kidsIf you thought that a defeat for a union in a unionization election was the end of Big Labor’s efforts, you’d be wrong. Volkswagen plant workers who told the United Auto Workers to get packing are about to learn this, as the union has created a local to “represent” the workers despite the employees’ clear decision against unionizing.

The union claims participation will be “voluntary” and that a request for formal bargaining will not be issued until a majority of workers join the union. Does this sound familiar? It should—UAW officials just described an attempt at card check.

Volkswagen officials haven’t announced if they would recognize a card check, but if UAW sneak in by the back door after losing a secret-ballot vote it would be an illustration of everything wrong with union selection under current labor law: The idea that public card signatures secured under conditions of potential intimidation more accurately reflect employees’ views than votes cast in the privacy of a voting booth is simply ludicrous.

More importantly, the union only has to “win”—whether by ballot or by card-check—once, then it essentially lasts forever. (Unions faced only 202 decertification elections in 2013, according to the National Labor Relations Board.) There is no provision for employees to periodically scrutinize their unions with a re-certification election under current law, even if most of the employees in a bargaining unit didn’t participate in the initial certification. A 2012 analysis by CUF of NLRB and Census data found that up to 92 percent of unionized employees hadn’t voted to unionize, largely because of union perpetuity.

Both of these infringements on employee rights would be corrected by a pending piece of federal legislation, the Employee Rights Act (ERA). Currently before Congress with 27 co-sponsors in the Senate and 99 in the House of Representatives, the ERA would require re-certification after half the initial voting employees left the bargaining unit and would require all union votes be by secret ballot. It may come too late for Volkswagen employees trying to stay out of the clutches of the “United Obama Workers” (as a billboard called the UAW), but ERA would restore balance between union special privileges and employee rights.

Categories: AFL-CIOCenter for Union FactsEmployee Rights ActUAW