Employer interests have already declared their intention to go nuclear on the Employee Free Choice Act, which would allow unions to be certified if a majority of workers sign a card that they want a union. If it’s too easy to form a union, then of course that would make it hard for them to intimidate workers into not joining, or firing the ones that still want to.
Their tactic is to claim that card check would result in union intimidation. It’s superficially plausible: maybe workers could be intimidated by union toughs (played by Sylvester Stallone in elevator shoes) into signing the cards against their will.
There are lots of reasons to think that this argument is bogus, but no one in the debate has mentioned the most important fact about it: we have evidence about the employers’ claim, and the evidence says that they are dead wrong.
For 50 years, from the 40’s to the 90’s. the province of Ontario had a card-check organizing system, until a right-wing government killed it. (Labour law goes province-by-province in Canada). So what was the record there?
I used advanced research techniques unknown to many reporters, and called up Harry Arthurs of York University, Canada’s pre-eminent labour law scholar. Arthurs literally wrote the book on this stuff. And I asked him: what does the evidence show?
Arthurs answered that in all of his research about labour law complaints under card check, he could not find a single case where the employer complained of a union intimidating workers to unionize when they didn’t want to.
That’s right: zero. Zilch. Nada. Efes. Rien.
Arthurs did find two cases complaining of union intimidation in the card check process: but they were both in cases where two unions were competing against one another, i.e. both the Teamsters and SEIU were trying to organize a particular plant. That’s it.
This isn’t some obscure jurisdiction. It’s Ontario, the largest and richest province in the country. 50 years. A half a century. Zero.
If you think about it for a moment, it becomes clearer why this is so. Employers will have their ears to the ground to find out about such things, and if they have a credible claim, they will be able to call for a secret ballot decertification election. And the workers who are intimidated will take their revenge then. It’s just not in the union’s interest to do it.
Employers don’t hate card check because they despise coercion. And they don’t hate it because they are committed to union “democracy.” They hate it because they want to bust unions. It’s pretty much that simple.