The U.S. House of Representatives voted 241 to 185 to pass H.R. 800 which is a bill that would change the process for unions to organize a workforce. The bill would require the NLRB to certify a union when a majority of workers sign authorization cards that designate the union as their bargaining representative. The card check process would eliminate the secret ballot election traditionally used to determine union representation.
Under the current law, union organization of a workforce occurs after a showing of interest to the NLRB by the presentation of authorization cards together with a recognition petition identifying what the union believes to be an appropriate unit for organizing. The employer may contest the appropriateness of the unit by demanding a hearing before an NLRB representative. After the unit is certified as appropriate by the NLRB, a secret ballot election is held (generally within about 30-45 days after the petition was filed). If the union receives a majority of the ballots cast by employees in the unit, it wins the right to represent the employees in an appropriate bargaining unit.
Eliminating the secret ballot has a tremendous impact on an employer’s ability to combat organizing attempts. The following is a partial list of problems created by the card check process:
- Employees seldom appreciate the importance of authorization cards and sign them without realizing that they authorize the union to represent the employee. Unions frequently solicit the cards by downplaying or misrepresenting their significance. If cards alone determine the right to representation, the employer loses all ability to educate employees on the benefits of nonunion status.
- Employers lose the ability to challenge the appropriateness of the unit before certification. Many times employers will try to add employees to or take away employees from the unit to improve the chances of prevailing in an election. These arguments center around the similarities or differences in job content or location of the employees in the union’s proposed unit.
- Employers lose the ability to conduct a campaign against the union during the 30 to 45 days between the petition and the election. The employer’s ability to educate employees about the union, the organization process and the collective bargaining process are paramount in winning an election.
The Bush administration has promised to veto the legislation, but the specter remains that a Democratic controlled Congress could make this legislation a priority for future years.