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NLRB Revives Troubling “Card Check” Process

Bringing back parts of a policy it dropped more than half a century ago, the National Labor Relations Board moved late last week to reinstate an abridged version of “card check,” according to Reuters (subscription).

What’s going on: In a “3-1 decision in a case involving building materials company Cemex Construction Materials,” the NLRB unveiled a new framework last Friday that revives the 1949 Joy Silk doctrine, which holds that “employers must bargain with unions unless they have a good-faith doubt that majority support exists.”

The background: The board had tossed out the doctrine in the early 1970s after the Supreme Court’s decision in NLRB v. Gissel Packing Co., in which the court held that “the NLRB could force employers to bargain with unions when they engage in misconduct so severe that any election would be tainted.”

  • This new decision “could provide a major boost to unions by allowing them to represent workers in certain cases when a majority sign cards in support of unionizing, rather than going through the lengthy and often litigious election process.”
  • Last week’s move also came a day after the board finalized a return to Obama-era regulations purportedly aimed at speeding up union elections.

Why it’s problematic: Card check—which the NAM has long opposed—is inherently unfair and insecure, and it strips employees of their right to secret ballots, said NAM Director of Infrastructure & Labor Policy Ben Siegrist.

  • “The NLRB’s decision could create a glide path to force unionization on workers without the necessary safeguards of an election, and it runs counter to 50 years of precedent established by the Supreme Court,” he said. “Effectively, this action contradicts the rights all employees have in determining their own representation.”
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