LaborTalk for January 14, 2011

NLRB Says Law Allows ‘Card Check’ Option;
The Board Will Sue Four States for Violations

By Harry Kelber

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced on Jan. 14 that it planned to sue Arizona, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah in an effort to invalidate recently-approved state constitutional amendments that prohibit private sector workers from choosing a union through a process known as ”card check.”

The state amendments were promoted by various conservative groups to prevent congressional Democrats and President Obama from enacting legislation that would allow unions to use card check, under which an employer must recognize a union as soon as a majority of workers signs pro-union authorization cards. That process makes it possible for workers to unionize without an election.

Under current law, employers can insist that secret ballots be used when unions are trying to organize private sector employees. But unions had hoped that card check in the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) would make it easier to unionize workers, because card check lets them gather majority support, often without giving employers the opportunity to campaign against the union.

The labor board said: “The four amendments differ in language, but all conflict with federal law by closing off a well-established path to union representation recognized by the Supreme Court and protected by the National Labor Relations Act.”

Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, including the threat of a Republican filibuster in the Senate, organized labor was unable to get Congress to approve EFCA. Its passage is even less likely with the Republicans controlling the House and gaining seven more seats in the Senate.

The NLRB ruling opens up the possibility of using the card check organizing method within states. It should energize pro-worker activities in workplaces within each of the 44 states that have not thwarted the law. The four states that passed the restrictive amendments are expected to challenge the NLRB ruling in the courts.

Employers Must Post Rights of Employees to Join Unions

Unions are pleased with a Labor Board rule that would require employers to post a notice or poster in their workplaces that informs their workers of their rights to organize under the National Labor Relations Act. The Board will specify the content of the notice that will explain in non-legal language the employees’ right to union organization, protection when organizing, how to file an unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB and other information.

The rules will be available from the NLRB and will have to be placed in conspicuous places where notices to employees are customarily posted.

For employers with a significant number of employees who are not proficient in English, the employer will be required to also display a poster with the verbiage translated in their language.

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It is outrageously discriminatory that workers should be denied the right to freely select an organization of their choice, a right that is enjoyed by bankers, politicians, business executives and, in fact, every sector of the population, except prisoners and working people.

It’s understandable that if workers are not threatened with reprisals, they would choose to join unions for obvious reasons: to gain higher wages, better benefits and improved working conditions. What’s wrong with that? Isn’t the reason most people join organizations of whatever kind is because they serve as a source of improvement or satisfaction?

The AFL-CIO and Change to Win have spent millions of dollars and wasted resources in what is essentially a moral issue: Why should one segment of society be denied a right enjoyed by all of the others? Is it right and fair to treat working people in this manner?—Harry Kelber

LaborTalk will be posted here on January 18, 2011 and on our two web sites and on