Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Card Check vs. Secret Ballots

A monopoly is a monopoly is a monopoly.
It doesn't matter if the monopoly is in sugar, corn, or computer operating systems. Monopolies are harmful. They harm consumers by preventing lower-priced goods from entering the market. (Do a bit o' Googling on the words "Sugar" and "Fanjul".)
It doesn't even matter if monopolies are related to labor. Labor unions are monopolies. The only way they can be effective? Keep out everyone who is willing to do the job for less. (Do a bit o' Googling on the words "Hoffa" and "Teamsters".)

Back during the campaign season, [the President-elect] vowed that he would pass something called Card Check:

EFCA (The hilariously named Employee Free Choice Act, AKA Card Check) requires employers to recognize a union— without an election—once organizers collect cards from a majority of employees. Indeed, the act states that once the union submits signatures from over 50 percent of the employees to the NLRB, it must certify the union without an election. Under EFCA, holding a secret ballot election once unions collect cards from a majority of workers would become illegal.
Additionally, a card-check–only recognition pro­cess strips workers of their privacy. Polls show that most Americans strongly oppose denying workers the privacy of the voting booth when deciding whether to join a union. In response to such criti­cism, unions now argue that EFCA does not end secret ballot elections. Instead, proponents argue that EFCA gives workers the choice between orga­nizing using public card-check or private elections.

Unions make this claim because union organiz­ers can call for an organizing election after cards have been signed by at least 30 percent of employ­ees. Since card-check recognition under EFCA occurs after organizers submit cards signed by a majority of workers, secret ballot elections could— in theory—occur under EFCA if organizers submit­ted cards signed by 30 to 50 percent of workers.
In practice this scenario will not happen. Noth­ing in the legislation gives workers any control over what organizing method unions use. That decision is left to union organizers. Organized labor's well-documented preference for card-check recognition makes it clear that EFCA effectively eliminates secret ballot elections.

In other words, union organizers have a choice between going the Secret Ballot Route, or the Card Check Route. Here's why:

Those are almost the EXACT words I heard from a Teamster driver when we were discussing this issue last week. The absence of secret ballot allows fear, intimidation, and peer pressure to enter the picture, a fact that is conspicuously absent from most of the mainstream media coverage of Card Check.

Organizers can simply go from employee to employee with either a petition or cards. They can get the employee drunk. They can tell the employee that he's signing a football betting pool. They can do whatever is necessary to get a signature on that document. Once they hit the magic 51 %, it's over. No secret ballot. No right to privacy.

If one political party or the other were to advocate eliminating secret ballots in general political elections? You would've heard a lot more about the right to privacy. Whether it's fair or not, unions gave more than 80 million dollars in support of the [President-elect] so they could get this card check thing put into play, and they're going to want something for their money.

But enough about Card Check.

There are two ways to move large quantities of large freight. Truckload (TL) and Less-Than-Truckload (LTL). Truckload carriers usually carry large amounts of freight directly from point A to point B. The freight usually isn't unloaded or transferred from trailer to trailer. The driver who picks the stuff up is often the one who delivers it to the final destination. Truckload carriers are more difficult for unions to organize, simply because One Driver in One Truck doesn't require much of a supporting cast and doesn't spend much time socializing with the breakroom lawyers at the freight dock.
LTL freight is picked up in smaller quantitites. One driver will often drive around the same area every day, gathering as much freight as possible from multiple shipping locations. He then delivers it to a central terminal, where it is sorted by state/zip code, and put onto other trucks going in that same general direction. All of that freight moves to the next "break bulk" terminal, where it is sorted one more time by destination. One pallet of merchandise might be on 6 different trucks if it had to go from Key West to Seattle. Large numbers of LTL employees work in the same location every day. They clock in and clock out, unlike their TL counterparts. Therefore, they've been much easier for the unions to take over.

As I understand it, almost all LTL carriers were once organized by The Teamsters Union. Therefore, most of them are now out of business.

But their former employees are still entitled to payments from The Teamsters' Pension Fund. (For an insane amount of info on this, read The Teamsters, by Stephen Brill.)

The U.S. is left with four LTL carriers burdened with the blessings of Teamster drivers: Yellow, Roadway, USF, and ABF.
Yellow Freight purchased Roadway in 2003. Then they bought USF. (Or maybe they did it earlier. I've always had difficulty getting USF to show up on time, and don't use them if I can help it.) The new Yellow/Roadway/USF conglomerate is called YRC Worldwide, and they're having issues. They're having to re-negotiate their Teamsters contract.

Here's Bill Zollars, president of YRC Worldwide: "This modification would address our operating cost structure, which is higher than a number of companies in our industry, due primarily to pension plan funding obligations. Funding pensions for our own Teamsters employees is affordable; however, paying for all the retirees and former employees of failed companies as required under our current plans makes us less competitive."
While working on a longer-term solution to this issue, YRC Worldwide is seeking immediate cost savings through proposed changes for the remainder of the contract including:

-- 10 percent reduction in all wages paid, inclusive of scheduled
-- Suspension of Cost of Living Adjustments (COLA)

In exchange, Teamsters employees would receive a 15 percent ownership stake in YRC Worldwide allowing them to share in future company performance through stock price appreciation. The details of this plan are still being finalized. Contributions to the health, welfare and pension plans would continue as previously negotiated.

Why are The Teamsters being so accomodating to YRC Worldwide? Because if YRC goes belly up, that leaves ABF as the only LTL carrier paying money into the pension fund. The Teamsters pension fund is just like Social Security, the Bernie Madoff ripoffs, or any other Ponzi scheme. The continued health of the fund relies on finding new suckers to contribute money to the fund.

So, according to my Teamster buddy, they'll soon be voting on whether or not to take this pay cut in exchange for a 15% share of YRC Worldwide. Here's the Teamsters For A Democratic Union website:

The final decision will be made by YRC Teamsters, because Article 12, Section 2 of the IBT Constitution requires a secret-ballot vote to amend the national contract.

What ???

The final decision will be made by YRC Teamsters, because Article 12, Section 2 of the IBT Constitution requires a secret-ballot vote to amend the national contract.

Did that say "secret ballot vote"? What ??? Surely that's a typo. Nope. Here's a blog called The Union Label, regarding a recent Teamster publication:

On the inside back-cover, in a special “Election Supervisor’s Report to IBT Members,” Richard W. Mark explains that “Every member has the right to vote their own ballot in secret” in the upcoming election of union leaders. Yet on Page 28, the headline boasts: “Winning With Card-Check.”

So.... James Hoffa Jr., the son of the still-absent Jimmy Hoffa Sr., is presently in charge of The Teamsters. Why would a Hoffa supporter or opponent insist on the anonymity of a secret ballot?

Sounds like they could use some Card Check.

Cartoon from RedPlanetCartoons.


Dr Ralph said...

RedPlanetCartoons? Now there's a scary freaking place. Someone should check to see if their rabies shots are up to date.

Once, back in my student dishwasher days, I muttered the word "union" in a fit of grousing. You'd have thought I stood on a table and screamed "Hurray for Moscow," the way my managers reacted. They swore up and down we'd all lose our jobs, cause them to loose the food service contract, and everyone would starve to death, etc.

Other employers would never resort to those sorts of scare tactics if faced with a NLRB election, would they? And if they did, it would merely be "education" and "sharing facts," not intimidation. Right?

They have "secret ballots" in North Korea, too. So of course there's no intimidation of the voters during their elections.

Sorry, I'm not quite buying that brand of Kool-Aid.

A little research revealed The Center for Union Facts, which produced the scary YouTube video, is one of lobbyist Rick Berman's many front organizations.

Rick's bread and butter is representing the food, alcoholic beverage and tobacco industries. His preferred method is to set up bogus grass-roots organizations (like UnionFacts) to slam critics so his meal tickets can appear to remain above the fray. In addition to working for Big Tobacco, he's been behind op-ed pieces that trash studies linking diabetes and soda consumption and downplayed the risk to children eating apples treated with the pesticide Alar (now banned because of cancer risks).

And now he wants to tell you about the unions. And by the way, his interest in secrecy extends to refusing to name who funds these campaigns.

Corruption in unions? Name me one organization of any size where there isn't corruption. Organized religion has its share but I still see you in Sunday School on occasion.

By the way, those thuggish "union officials" in the YouTube video? Actors. Possibly in a union.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

ALL of which is probably true.

In the recent unpleasantness ending with the November election, both sides did their dead-level best to intimidate and scare the pants off everybody. Then the voters were able to go into the privacy of a voting booth and vote for the "tails" or the "heads" side of the coin.

Sometimes the secret ballot works against the Dems, sometimes, the Republicans. But for the last 25 years or so, it has worked fairly consistently against labor unions. Why? Do a bit o' googling on the words UAW and Bailout. Or Teachers Union and California. Or perhapns TEAMSTERS PENION FUND and LOOTED.

One thing I'm noticing.... any time someone can't pay or be paid based on a freedom of contract, whether it's Ethanol from Brazil, College Athletes, or the Teamsters, there's more than the usual dollop of corruption.

But NONE of which addresses my point.... why do they insist on a secret ballot for Thee but not for Me?

p.s. - I kinda liked the Red Planet cartoons site, esp. the Reagan picture in the top left. (BTW, I already know that Reagan loved the actor's union and Polish unions, but didn't like the air traffic controller's union.)

Dr Ralph said...

If the discussion is over whether the Teamsters are corrupt or not, I'll smile politely and concede you may have a point. I'm not so willing to paint all unions with the same brush, which tends to be what happens.

Our friend Mr. Berman of the Beer, Smokes and Cheeseburger Institute prefers to lump them all together into one big ol' mass of cigar-chewin', dues-skimmin', employee-intimidatin' thugs, working to alienate happy employees from their benevolent employers.

In the weeks (months, and some cases years) leading up to a NLRB election, the union organizers have no access to campaign within the workplace, while the employers have plenty of access to go on about the horrors of unionization (showing Mr. Berman's videos, no doubt).

It would be like if Fox News owned all the TV stations and newspapers. Fair and Balanced? I think not.

Another major point that needs to be made is that since the NLRB is made up of presidential appointees, it can easily tilt towards the policies of the White House when making rulings. Under the Bush administration it has been no friend to the working man. So the issue is not as clear cut as some (Mr. Berman?) would have us believe.

I know you're no fan of unions (I love you anyway, man) but with all of their flaws, remember they are there to address past abuse, from child labor to sweatshops in the textile industry (they still exist).

If everybody played nice, we'd have no need for unions, government regulations, standing armies and all sorts of expensive bothersome things.

On a final note: Happy Holidays/Merry Christmas/(affirming adjective) Winter Solstice! Enjoy your upcoming family vacation. I will miss our debates!

vampE said...

Dr Ralph - I totally agree with you. Whited is a bit strange.

Dr Ralph said...

vampE -- we like him strange.

That's what makes him interesting.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

"They laugh because I'm different. I laugh because they're all the same."

Daniel said...

Hate to break it to you Whited, but you aren't any different from the other talking heads.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

Good. That means sanity is in the majority.