Card Check still looms large over bulk logistics sector

Aug. 1, 2009
News reports over the past few weeks noted that some of the most onerous provisions might be dropped from the misleadingly named and undemocratic Employee

News reports over the past few weeks noted that some of the most onerous provisions might be dropped from the misleadingly named and undemocratic Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). Some pundits have even suggested that the whole legislative package might be set aside.

We would caution against getting too excited about these developments. The legislation remains the top priority of major US labor unions and is a key agenda item for the Obama Administration. The photograph included with this editorial was shot recently at the Teamsters headquarters in Washington, and it illustrates the union determination to push this legislation through no matter what happens to the US economy.

Why is Big Labor pushing such an undemocratic agenda? Simply put, they are desperate. Just 7.6% of private-sector workers belong to unions today, because most workers view unions as irrelevant in today's rapidly changing economy, according to the Cato Institute.

Certainly EFCA (which really should be called the Employee “No” Choice Act) has hit some major speed bumps in the road to passage. Even the union-friendly New York Times was forced to acknowledge growing opposition to some of the most blatantly anti-democratic provisions in the legislation.

“A half-dozen senators friendly to labor have decided to drop a central provision of a bill that would have made it easier to organize workers,” the New York Times said in a July 17 story. “The so-called card-check provision — which senators decided to scrap to help secure a filibuster-proof 60 votes — would have required employers to recognize a union as soon as a majority of workers signed cards saying they wanted a union. Currently, employers can insist on a secret-ballot election, a higher hurdle for unions. The abandonment of card check was another example of the power of moderate Democrats to constrain their party's more liberal legislative efforts. Though the Democrats have a 60-40 vote advantage in the Senate, and President Obama supports the measure, several moderate Democrats opposed the card-check provision as undemocratic.”

The jettisoned card-check provision would have allowed unions to organize a workplace simply by “persuading” (and that is a polite term for what unions do) a majority of workers to sign up for a union. In addition to taking away the secret ballot — a critical part of democracy's foundation — the EFCA system could have left individual workers, and possibly their families, open to brutal intimidation.

The fact is unions lose elections because they have little to offer today's workers, and they run lousy election campaigns. Kate Bronfenbrenner, a researcher for Big Labor, found that unions could fully offset the effect of employer education campaigns by conducting more intelligent organizing campaigns themselves. However, it would seem that the union bosses have decided that organizing is easier if they just get rid of democracy.

The so-called compromise referred to in the New York Times story is just as bad as the original legislation. As the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace points out, union bosses are thrilled with the compromise bill because it still gives them ample opportunity to violate worker rights and place undue burden on the small businesses that form the backbone on the US economy.

The revised Employee “No” Choice Act is still brimming with provisions making it easier for unions to organize workplaces and perhaps halt the relentless 40-year slide in private-sector union membership. Those provisions make this legislation a huge job killer. By some estimates, this legislation will destroy at least 765,000 jobs over the next seven years.

The new EFCA would reduce the typical union-organizing election campaign from two months to as few as five days. These ambush elections could only be favored by an organization that wants to deprive workers of the information and time they need to make an informed decision. There is no difference between the anti-worker card-check scheme and ambush elections.

The legislation also contains onerous provisions for binding arbitration if an employer fails to reach a contract with a union. In fact, the process would be skewed so much toward the unions that they would have no reason to negotiate any labor contract without binding arbitration. Employers would be forced to accept the decision of a government arbitration panel even if the resulting union contract would threaten the company's survival.

Business owners and managers have so many things to worry about today, but this issue cannot be ignored. With Congress on vacation until after Labor Day, it's important to meet with elected officials and explain how damaging EFCA could be to the small businesses that make up most of the bulk logistics sector.

Agree or disagree? Make your voice heard by visiting Bulk Transporter Interactive at and clicking on “Contact Us.”

About the Author

Charles Wilson

Charles E. Wilson has spent 20 years covering the tank truck, tank container, and storage terminal industries throughout North, South, and Central America. He has been editor of Bulk Transporter since 1989. Prior to that, Wilson was managing editor of Bulk Transporter and Refrigerated Transporter and associate editor of Trailer/Body Builders. Before joining the three publications in Houston TX, he wrote for various food industry trade publications in other parts of the country. Wilson has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and served three years in the U.S. Army.