‘Card check’ bill would help prevent intimidation of employees
I found the Star-Bulletin's editorial of April 14 endorsing Gov. Linda Lingle's veto of legislation
to allow certification of union organizing by "card check" to be little more than anti-union propaganda.
You wrote that the legislation would "eliminate secret elections in union organizing" and that it was patterned after a congressional measure, the Employee Free Choice Act of 2007, which I was proud to co-sponsor, and which was approved by the House of Representatives on March 1.
In fact, neither the state nor federal legislation would prevent a secret ballot on recognizing a union. Currently, an employer can - and often does - refuse to accept the union sign-up cards, which forces employees to go through a costly and time-consuming election to form a union. The change from current law would be to allow employees to decide on holding an election - not the employer.
Many years of records from the National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency that oversees union elections, show that employers frequently use the election period to try to intimidate employees into opposing a union, and even fire those who support unions. In fact, research by the University of Illinois at Chicago's Center for Urban Development found that:
» 46 percent of workers report being pressured by management during union elections;
» 49 percent of employers illegally threaten to close a worksite during union organizing drives if workers choose to form a union;
» 91 percent of employers force employees to attend one-on-one anti-union meetings with their supervisors during union organizing drives; and
» 30 percent of employers illegally fire pro-union workers during union organizing drives.
According to the National Labor Relations Board, stalling negotiations has been a common tactic used by employers for decades. In fact, 32 percent of America's newly unionized workers still lack a collective bargaining agreement one year after voting for union representation. Both the federal and state legislation would make it easier for employees to express a desire to organize a union, and speed the process of getting them to the table with their employer for collective bargaining negotiations.
Since 1935, government's role in labor-management relations has been to ensure balance and fairness between workers and management. Gov. Lingle's veto of card check legislation was a giant step backward in that responsibility. I urge the Hawaii Legislature to overturn the veto at its first opportunity.
Neil Abercrombie represents urban Honolulu in the U.S. House of Representatives.