Don't Believe the Hype About Union Intimidation


In the battle over the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, right-wing opposition to the bill has centered on the claim that if a majority sign-up (sometimes referred to as “card check”) process of certifying the union is used, union organizers will pressure and intimidate workers into joining the union. This claim is unfounded, a new study by the University of Illinois released earlier this month revealed.

The study examined a six year period in the state of Illinois where more than 21,000 public workers joined unions through majority sign-up. Currently, federal law provides two methods of certifying a new union in a workplace: majority sign-up and a voting process (sometimes referred to as a secret ballot).

As it is currently written, the law gives the employer the power to decide how workers will certify their own organization. If the employer is magnanimous enough to allow workers to use the majority sign-up methods, the process is simpler and requires fewer taxpayer resources to complete. All the workers have to do is sign a union membership card, which are then verified by the National Labor Relations Board and negotiations for a first contract begin.

According to the University of Illinois study of this process in that state between 2003 and 2009, not s single proven case of union intimidation of an employee could be documented.

The report proves that workers not only want to voluntarily join unions but that right-wing opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act, which would give workers the right to decide how to certify their union (rather than the employer), based on claims of union intimidation is false, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said in a press statement this week.

“Workers form unions to bargain for a better life, not because of outside intimidation. Workers need the majority sign up provision because it gives workers the choice of how to form a union, not corporations,” Sweeney stated.

Further, the report indicates that when employers are not hostile towards workers who favor a union in their workplace and the right to join a union is is left undisturbed, the process of certification of a union is less rancorous and less costly to taxpayers.

The truth is that employer intimidation of workers who want a union is the reality, not union intimidation. Other surveys have revealed that when employers fight workers on the issue, employer harassment and intimidation of workers is rampant. According to various studies and surveys, as many as 30 percent of companies will fire pro-union employees. More than 90 percent of employers will use some kind of tactics to intimidate employees when a union organizing drive is discovered.

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