June 30, 2005 – A study of competing proposals for new laws to govern union organizing conducted for Congress could be just the salve organized labor is looking for as it gears up for a contentious conference next month in Chicago.
The study, which was conducted by the Congressional Research Service, a publicly-funded body that handles research on various issues for House and Senate members, compares the efficacy of secret ballot elections and the process known as card check elections. Labor writer and president emeritus of the Newspaper Guild Jonathan Tasini released a copy of the report yesterday. CRS reports are usually not made public but can be obtained through members of Congress.
Entitled "Labor Union Recognition Procedures: Use of Secret Ballots and Card Checks," the study found that workers are more likely to form unions if allowed the option of simply signing a card affirming their desire to have an organized workplace than if they have to go through a lengthy campaign that culminates in a secret ballot election.
When management agreed not to interfere with union organizing efforts by way of so-called "neutrality agreements," reports the study, the rate of successful campaigns increased by nearly 16 percent. The rate was 62.5 percent with card check alone, but 78.2 percent with card check and neutrality agreements.
Back in April, Senators Ted Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) and Arlen Spector (R-Pennsylvania) introduced legislation which would mandate a card check process for all workplaces covered by the National Labor Relations Act. The proposed law would also ease arbitration procedures and create harsher punishments for employers that harass or fire workers attempting to form a union. Similar legislation was introduced in the House by George Miller (D-California), Peter King (D-New York) and Brian Higgins (D-New York).
This is the second time around for the Employee Free Choice Act. Last year the measure never received a hearing in the House, despite being cosponsored by 209 members of Congress. Organized labor actively supports the bill and American Rights at Work, a workplace democracy advocacy organization, pointed out that 37 Senators and 182 Representatives have signed on as cosponsors in the past two months.