Posted // 2009-10-06 -
I have sympathy for Orson Scott Card's take on the Employee Free Choice Act--that it serves union leaders more than union workers--but my sympathy is far from agreement.
"Whether you're a serf to management or to union leaders makes little difference to the serf."
Now that's a position that gets my attention. And Card argues it genuinely
. He's a union screenwriter in favor of unions, but he's worried union power, like any centralized power, becomes corrupted with each political victory, i.e., more power. I couldn't agree more with that basic premise.
But he then argues that the Employee Free Choice Act, frequently referred to as "card check," is an example of union leaders merely maintaining their own power, not empowering workers. As it is, management can force a secret ballot election upon their workforce even if a majority of workers have already signed cards saying they want to form a union. EFCA would enable card-signing majorities of workers to skip the formality of an election. Why have a secret ballot to determine the interests of a majority of workers, if a majority of workers have already expressed their desire for a union publicly?
Card says the movement to eliminate this management control of the elections is a "a conspiracy of Democrats in Congress and union leaders against the freedom of workers." Union leaders can force or coerce workers to sign cards, Card and others argue, but secret ballot frees the worker from this pressure.
Card made a mistake, however, of not examining the unspoken motivations of the anti-card check crowd.
The value of elections for this crowd is not secrecy; primarily elections serve as a crucial delay. The National Labor Relations Board, under the George W. Bush administration, became a veritable black hole where contested union election results went in for review, but never came out. Or, when they did come out in years later in favor of the workers seeking a union, the work force sometimes had changed so much due to routine turn-over that the election was then challenged on those grounds. Delay, delay, delay
Card may be right that EFCA will empower union leaders and that may not be an entirely good thing. But he's writing from a position as a firmly unionized worker, not one currently organizing.