This afternoon, the Senate Republican Conference held a hearing on an ongoing attempt to undermine the secret ballot process in union organizing elections. Specifically at issue is the grossly misnamed Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), which would allow unions to circumvent elections through a process known as “card check,” whereby the union can organize a workplace by getting a majority of employees to sign union cards — in public, in front of union organizers, who give workers a high-pressure pitch.
The first witness, Lydia Robert of Phoenix, is a worker who was subject to such a pitch in 2006, while employed by Milum Textile Services. (She was unable to attend the hearing in person, so she delivered her testimony via video.)
Well, in the beginning, I remember the first time they went to my house. There were six ladies.
I thought they were Jehovah’s Witnesses. When I opened the door, it was not. It was the union.
So they, right away, got out a paper and wanted me to sign right away— before they said anything.
And I said, “What is going on?” you know?
And they said, “We’re the union. Don’t worry about it. We’re coming to protect the employees, everybody.”
I said, well, so anyway, I was trying to be nice to them, in some way, you know?
I tried to make them understand that I want nothing more, I didn’t want nothing to do with them.
We talked for maybe a couple of hours. And they didn’t make me sign the paper.
So they said, “We will one of these days” and I said, “Well, maybe.”
So after then, it was every day.
So every day, in the morning, my son used to drive me here, outside about 5 in the morning.
They were already right there. If they were not there, they were in my parking lot where I used to live.
And my son says “Did you tell them?” and I said “I told them, ‘just leave me alone.'” But they don’t.
That’s why I say, the impression I have is: They don’t know what no means.
The way they started to get people is the wrong way to do it. They don’t use the right way, because they force these ladies.
A lot of ladies, here, were forced to sign the papers. I saw when they were doing it.
Especially new people. Sign, sign, sign here. They used to do it like that.
You know, a lot of people quit. Some people are gone. Some people said “I wish I never signed the paper.”
They felt sorry, but it was too late. Because they never explained anything. They told us, “Just sign the paper, we’ll talk to you later.”
At the end of Roberts’s testimony, the video notes, in text: “After more than a year of harassment at her home, Lydia felt the only solution was to move.”
Thomas Musser, chairman of the Tri-M Group, an electrical engineering firm, was up next. He noted the hypocrisy of EFCA’s House sponsor, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.).
A letter sent by rep. George miller and 15 other members of congress to Mexican government officials in 2001, stated, “we understand that the private ballot is allowed for, but not required by Mexican labor law. However, we feel that the private ballot is absolutely necessary in order to ensure workers are not intimidated into voting for a union they may otherwise not choose.”
Miller today dismisses similar arguments made by EFCA opponents. Musser also noted the straitjacket that unionization could impose on the competitiveness of small business.
Election statistics from the NLRB demonstrate that the bulk of union organizing targets small business. For the fiscal year ending September 30, 2005, the NLRB conducted 2,649 representation elections. More than 20 percent of these secret-ballot elections involved bargaining units of fewer than 10 employees and a full 70 percent of these elections involved bargaining units of fewer than 50 employees.
Heritage Foundation labor research James Sherk went into some detail on union organizing tactics in card-check campaigns.
Organizers aim in a card-check campaign is to get the workers to sign union cards, not to educate them about the pros and cons of union membership. With card-check, workers only choose in the presence of union organizers. Unions train their organizers to give workers a one-sided, high pressure sales pitch to get them to sign the card. Organizers are trained to avoid subjects like strike histories or dues increases that make workers less likely to join. The Employee Free Choice Act is intended to prevent workers from hearing both sides before committing to the union.
If workers decide not to sign the first time organizers approach, they return again and again to press them to change their mind. This happened to hotel workers in Los Angeles, who had to get a court injunction against union organizers to end repeated harassment on their porches late at night.
When sales pitches and repeated pressure fail, some union activists turn to intimidation. Union organizers in Las Vegas threatened that workers who did not sign would lose their jobs. Ricardo Torres, a former Steelworkers organizer, quit after his superiors told him to threaten to report migrant workers to immigration authorities if they would not sign union cards.
These tactics allow unions to organize workplaces where most workers do not want to join. Torres confessed that, “We knew how to make the pressure so great that most workers would feel powerless to refuse to sign the card.”
That is why union activists want to end secret ballots. As UFCW organizer Joe Crump explains, in a card-check campaign “You don’t need a majority or even 30% support among employees.”