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Like Asking for a Show of Hands

I am writing in response to Lawrence Framme’s carefully rehearsed article favoring the Employee Free Choice Act, legislation which would eliminate secret ballot elections in union organizing campaigns and require an employer to recognize a union whenever more than 50 percent of its employees sign a card authorizing union representation. Framme claims in his article that EFCA “merely levels the playing field between employees and employers in campaigns to organize a workforce” and “will not have much effect on Virginia small and medium sized employers and their employees.” These reassurances are far from accurate.


Frame acknowledges that unions currently win 60 percent of all NLRB supervised secret ballot elections which certainly demonstrates that unions have a fair opportunity to win under the current system. EFCA, however, substitutes card check which is a notoriously unreliable means of determining employee views concerning union representation. Union organizers are trained to conduct their card signing campaigns in secret, allowing them and their supporters to often totally misrepresent what signing a card means and can otherwise resort to pressure, harassment and threats to force employees to sign cards. As a result, many employees sign union cards without wanting to or without having any idea of what signing a union card means.


As the Fourth Circuit of the United States Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, recognized in 1967 in NLRB v. S.S. Logan Packing Company: It would be difficult to imagine a more unreliable method of ascertaining the real wishes of employees than a card check unless it was an employer’s request for an open show of hands. The one is no more reliable than the other.


And in the famous case of NLRB v. Gissel Packing Co., the U.S. Supreme Court reiterated: We would be closing our eyes to obvious difficulties, of course, if we did not recognize that there have been abuses primarily arising out of misrepresentation by union organizers as to…the effect of signing a card. …the unreliability of the cards is not dependent upon the possible use of misrepresentation and threats…. It is inherent, as we have noted, in the absence of secrecy and in the natural inclination of most people to avoid a stance which appears to be nonconformist and antagonistic to friends and fellow employees.


Retired Democratic Senator George McGovern recently acknowledged in a Wall Street Journal article in which he opposed this legislation: “There are many documented cases where workers have been pressured, harassed, tricked and intimidated into signing cards that have led to mandatory payment of dues.”


What further makes the Act so completely hypocritical and exposes it as a union power grab is the fact that even though unions want to require employers to recognize unions on the basis of a card check, unions still insist that employees must vote by NLRB supervised secret written ballot if the employees want to decertify or kick the union out.


Framme follows the union party line in trying to portray EFCA as simply a means of allowing unions to target big employers while largely leaving small and medium sized employers alone. But every well-trained union organizer knows that it is much easier to organize small companies then large, leaving little doubt that small and medium sized companies will bear the brunt of the tidal wave of union organizing that would follow if EFCA becomes law.


Framme does not even mention in his article that to further stack the deck in favor of unions, EFCA would shorten the collective bargaining process for first time contracts. It would also require that if a company and a union were not able to reach an agreement within 120 days, the FMCS, a government agency, would appoint an arbitration board to impose a contract on the employer. Mandatory arbitration for initial collective bargaining agreements is, in the view of many, the most significant single change ever proposed for the nation’s private sector labor laws. Knowledgeable business leaders have been stunned to learn of this provision of the Act. Can you image what the combination of card check and government mandated contracts could do to small and medium size businesses in Virginia?


Framme also argues that EFCA will not have much impact on employers in Virginia because only 3.7 percent of wage and salary workers in Virginia belong to a union. But, a major U.S. labor leader has already boasted that the passage of the Act will enable unions to gain 15 to 20 million new members in the next 10 years, thus essentially doubling union membership in our country. Labor union dues and revenues would increase by five billion per year resulting in increased union economic and political clout. Instead of simply leveling the playing field, the Wall Street Journal has recently opined that the EFCA would result in “union supremacy.”


If this happens, Virginia has the most to lose since the largely union free character of our workforce (second lowest in the nation) is one of the chief reasons that Virginia is annually ranked the number one state in which to do business. Rather than be lulled into inaction, Virginia businesses, both large and small, should rally to defeat the EFCA which poses a direct threat to the positive business environment in the Commonwealth.

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