The Washington Post editorialized today in favor of a compromise on card-check, including snap elections or mandatory union access to company premises, because – they argue – the current process too heavily favors management. They also criticized the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace for refusing to admit this.
So here is a question for the Washington Post: If the current process heavily favors management, why did unions win over two-thirds of organizing elections last year?
In fact, as I have written before, labor law heavily tilts the scales in favor of unions during organizing drives:
- Unions control the election timing, so workers do not vote until union support peaks.
- Employers rarely learn of the organizing drive until unions ask for an election, so unions have months to build support while employers have just one month to present the other side.
- Employers may not ask employees if they support the union. Unions may ask employees how they will vote and focus their efforts on persuading undecided workers.
- The law severely restricts employer speech while allowing unions to say almost anything they want. Employers may not promise to improve working conditions if workers vote down the union. The union may promise anything it wants, even if it knows it cannot keep those promises.
- Employers may not even ask workers what problems they have in the workplace and why they want a union. Unions can ask workers about anything they want.
- Unions may not campaign while workers are on company property and on company time. However the company must give unions the addresses of every worker and unions can visit workers at their homes. Employers are legally prohibited from visiting workers homes to campaign.
The law stacks the deck against employers in union drives. And – contrary to union assertions – the overwhelming majority of employers obey the law. Which is why unions rack up that impressive 2-1 win rate. The Coalition for a Democratic Workplace is right to say that the government should not tilt the playing field even more heavily in union organizer’s favor. That would hurt workers ability to make a free choice.
The economy has changed and made unions less relevant. General representation does not make much sense in an economy that rewards individual skills and abilities. Most non-union workers do not want a union: one recent survey found that only 9 percent of nonunion workers want to join a union. Unions have not changed to adapt to the modern economy and they are selling a product that most workers do not want to buy.
The only way for unions to organize most companies is if workers never get the chance to hear the other side and learn that, empty union promises aside, organizing won’t actually do much to help them. The goal of the misnamed “Employee Free Choice Act” is to force workers to publicly commit to a union before ever getting to hear the other side. That’s great for union organizing, but not for workers.
These card-check “compromises” have the same goal. Snap elections are intended to deprive workers of an informed choice. They would force workers to vote after months of campaigning by the union but with only a few weeks to hear the management side. How is that fair, and how does that help workers? Mandatory union access to company premises at staff meetings is intended to deter companies from discussing the downsides of organizing. If an employer doesn’t want the union disrupting their workplace they cannot talk to their employees about why unionizing might not be everything the organizers have promised.
Individual employers do violate the law, and bosses who fire pro-union workers should be punished. But these are the rare exceptions. Labor law heavily stacks the deck in favor of union organizers, which is why unions win two-thirds of organizing elections. The law should not further tilt the playing field to press workers into a commitment that most of them do not want to make.