Monday, December 15, 2008

Next Up: A Battle over Unionization

Next Up: A Battle over Unionization
By Jerome Grossman

In recent decades the number of U. S. workers in unions has declined dramatically from a peak of more than 35% to below 10%. Some of the factors in the decline have been the weakness of industry and manufacturing in America, the lengthy political dominance (now ended) of the anti-union Republican Party, the rulings of the National Labor Relations Board and the sophisticated anti-union tactics that some employers have used to sway or intimidate workers before the first union election.

The unions believe that a bargaining unit should be formed as soon as a majority of workers sign authorization cards. The employers now have the right to call for a subsequent secret ballot vote on unionization. This dual process often results in lengthy delays, angry relationships, employer pressures and legal expense more easily borne by the employer.

For years the labor movement has been trying to pass a law, The Employee Free Choice Act, to take employers out of the decision of the workers to organize themselves by recognizing card check elections as decisive.

The unions base their argument on the National Labor Relations Act, signed in 1935 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, which made unionization the national policy, "To protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices......"

Last year, the House of Representatives passed 241 to 185 a bill requiring employers to recognize unions organized by card check. In the Senate, the bill passed 51 to 48 on a party-lined vote but failed to reach the 60 votes necessary to prevent filibuster.

Prospects for passage will be better in 2009. The Democrats will have at least 57 senators, perhaps 58, some GOP senators from heavily unionized states are up for reelection, and the legislation is supported by President-elect Obama, and Vice President-elect Biden.

The unions are already calling the legislation "An economic stimulus package for America's working families." The employers will cite the cost to business in a recession and the sanctity of the secret ballot. The general public may wish to support an increase in share for US workers in the declining American pie, a share that has gone down dramatically since the 1970s.


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