What is Card Check?
Card check is a procedure under which an employer recognizes a union when presented with signed cards in favor of joining a union from over 50 percent of employees. The main alternative to card check is an election, a process overseen by the NLRB which often drags on for years as the company’s lawyers throw up roadblocks and workers lose interest. Companies hold mandatory anti-union meetings and harass workers during many election campaigns. A survey [link to PDF] of 400 NLRB election campaigns in the late 1990s found that 36 percent of workers who vote against union representation credit employer pressure with determining their vote.
Card check has been legal since 1935, and the NLRB has repeatedly ruled it so. Card check was once the standard procedure for forming a union and has been relied on increasingly in recent years as the election process that worked fairly well in the 1950s and 1960s has become less of a real alternative, and as formal complaints of discrimination against workers who favor a union have risen to over 10,000 per year. Surveys have found that 42 million employees who are not represented by a union would like to have representation at work. Were the NLRB to rule card check illegal, the right to organize would effectively cease to exist for millions more in America.
What is the threat?
It seems that the NLRB will be reviewing “the legitimacy of the procedure,” and there is also a Republican bill “that would eliminate the use of card check.”
Unfortunately, this issue, which could affect millions of Americans, isn’t worth the media’s attention:
While a Nexis search for “Catherine Zeta-Jones” turns up 957 articles during the past 30 days, a search for NLRB and “card check” turns up 55 articles during the past 60 days. Of these, many address particular union organizing drives rather than the NLRB’s general review of card check, several are letters to editors, and several more are repeats of the same articles. The unique articles squarely addressing the issue are few and generally very short in length.