Thursday, April 30, 2009

Report from the bloggers' teleconference about card check

Even though today is a very busy news day, I made it a point to take part in a teleconference about the Employee Free Choice Act, better known as card check. Opponents of the bill call it the Employee FORCED Choice Act, because if it is enacted, it will take away a worker's right to a secret ballot when deciding whether to join a union.

Workforce Fairness Institute (WFI) representative Mark McKinnon and former United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Statewide Organizing Director Rian Wathen each began the teleconference with opening statements.

McKinnon spoke first, and reaffirmed the general belief that EFCA is a terrible bill for business and will have a detrimental effect on the creation of jobs. But there is more to dislike in this bill, such as the "even more problematic" federal arbitration section. When labor negotiations break down, as they invariably do, McKinnon told participants that labor's hand is strengthened. If EFCA is made into law, a federal arbitrator will be appointed--a bureaucrat--it will be this person who makes the call on such issues as workplace conditions, vacation pay, and salaries. Some businesses, McKinnon cautions, "will simply close their doors and shut down" rather than have to deal with this kind of situation.

And as we all know, many businesses are only just getting by during this recession. They hardly need additional obstacles.

"Common sense officeholders," McKinnon explained about EFCA, "including Democrats that support labor, have said this is a bridge way too far."

Wathen took his turn. While admitting there are some labor "true believers," the former UFCW organizer and collective bargaining representative said union organizers "are salesmen, although they like to say they are not." He added, "They are selling hopes, dreams, and visions."

How are these organizers trained? Sales training, more specifically, Wathen declared, "emotion based training."

Which of course gives the union reps salespeople the upper hand during a presentation. Wathen didn't phrase it as such, but I'm going to: If you've ever been on the receiving end of a life insurance or time-share pitch, you'll know what workers are going through.

Organizers have a list of questions designed to move them down the emotional timeline to get them to commit.

What happens to organizers who sign up a lot of members? Well, just like successful sales people, they get promoted.

Just as there are disreputable sales people, there are organizers who cheat, using tactics Wathen calls "creative organizing."

Union organizers will give workers rides to work, or take them to a bar, get them drunk, and then get those needed card check signatures, or worse, they'll hide the card check literature within innocent looking pamphlets, which Wathen says SEIU is doing in California.

Whatever it takes to get ahead...

And once a worker signs a card check petition--in whatever form--they cannot rescind that action. You got that?

Current labor law allows a little more than a month's time where workers can weigh the benefits of joining a union--or not joining--by taking in information provided by their employer, the union, as well as conducting their own research. And then they vote--using a secret ballot.

Wathen added that "EFCA is not about workers' rights, it's not about increasing the middle class, what it's about is bringing revenue to organized labor."

The question and answer session followed, and my query was about union decertification. I mentioned that two years ago Treasure Island grocery store workers in Chicago were able to decertify UFCW by secret ballot. If EFCA is enacted, how would employees kick out a union?

Wathen replied there is no card check petition provision to decertify unions in the EFCA bill.

To give a union the heave-ho, current labor laws would stay in place.

But workers need a secret ballot vote for that.

Oh the hypocrisy...

Related post:

Report from the bloggers' teleconference about Employee FORCED Choice binding arbitration

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