The National Labor Relations Act grants workers the right to join or form a labor union and to collectively bargain over wages, hours and working conditions—but recently, the National Labor Relations Board began to identify opportunities to advance and even accelerate some unionization efforts that could dramatically change the workplace. This is on top of a House-led effort to insert a narrow but harmful “card check” provision in the COMPETES legislation.
The NAM recently hosted a webinar presented by Michael Lotito and Maury Baskin, co-chairs of the Workplace Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. The webinar laid out some of the challenges associated with new unionization campaigns in various workplaces. It also covered the efforts to facilitate card check as well as what individuals and organizations can do to fight back.
The basics: Card check is a method of union organization in which employees vote to support unionization with signature cards rather than secret ballot elections.
The problems: The NAM opposes card check legislation for a number of reasons:
- Fairness: Today, union elections are administered and overseen by the NLRB using private ballots to ensure no parties (employees, employers or unions) can unfairly influence how individual employees vote.
- Election security: Card check legislation would do away with organized and federally supervised elections in favor of an informal and loosely managed card check process, which is more susceptible to fraud and coercion.
- The importance of secret ballots: The NAM believes that an employee’s right to a secret ballot should always be protected. Card check legislation strips employees of this right and threatens the democratic nature of union votes.
The webinar provided an overview of the current pro-union environment and offered participants practical information about unionization efforts and tactics. It also covered how to support an “issue-free” workplace.
- Union participation trends: Over the long term, union participation is down. The private-sector union membership rate dropped from 16.8% in 1983 to 6.1% in 2021. However, unions have been hot lately; between Oct. 1 and March 31, union petitions were up 57%.
- Manufacturers at risk: Card check legislation and revamped unionization efforts may have a disproportionate impact on manufacturers because manufacturing has a higher unionization rate than other industries.
- Virtual organizing: Social media has made it easier than ever for unions to organize employees efficiently and inexpensively.
- What matters to workers: In a survey asking employees what they feel is most important about their jobs, the top three answers were: appreciation for their work; companies’ sympathy for their problems; and the belief that they could contribute to the direction of the company.
- Giving employees a voice: Companies that understand issues in the workplace, have effective processes for resolving problems and allow employees to speak up individually and collectively are less likely to face unionization efforts.
For additional information on what’s at stake and tools you can use to oppose card check, take a look at the Manufacturers United toolbox here.