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Workers Weigh in on Alleged Coercion During Card Check Campaigns and NLRB Elections
New poll results discredit claims of union pressure

March 21, 2006

Kimberly Freeman
202-822-2127, ext. 111
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WASHINGTON, DC—New survey results released today by American Rights at Work reveal workers’ opinions on union and employer coercion during card check campaigns and National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) elections. “Anti-union lobbyists and policymakers have contributed to the debate on card check with rhetoric aligned with the right-wing plan to crush labor unions. We went looking for the facts from workers themselves,” says David Bonior, Chair of American Rights at Work. “Survey findings dismiss claims of union pressure in card check campaigns as gross exaggeration.”

Rutgers University and Wheeling Jesuit University professors Adrienne Eaton, Ph.D., and Jill Kriesky, Ph.D., conducted a national telephone survey of 430 randomly-selected workers from worksites where employees sought to form unions using NLRB elections or card check campaigns in 2002. Unlike any other research on this issue to date, survey respondents included workers who voted for and against the union in elections, and were selected from campaigns in which the union won and lost. “The study was designed to examine whether claims were true that card check campaigns leave employees more vulnerable to union pressure than during NLRB elections,” explains Eaton.

While we polled workers on union and employer coercion, it’s important to note that they aren’t equivalent,” clarifies Kriesky. “Pro-union workers and union organizers attempt to make their case persuasively. But when the person who signs your paycheck calls you into his office and tells you he’s against the union, that’s an entirely different kind of influence.” Employers use their power to hire, fire, and change work schedules to pressure workers during the weeks leading up to an NLRB election.  According to a 2005 report by the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Center for Urban Economic Development, when faced with organizing drives, 30 percent of employers fire pro-union workers, 49 percent threaten to close a worksite if the union prevails, and 51 percent coerce workers into opposing unions with bribery or favoritism. Says Kriesky, “The survey results must be reviewed with this distinction in mind.”

Findings indicate that NLRB elections expose workers to far more coercion than card check campaigns. Further, workers report that management pressure during union organizing campaigns is a much bigger issue than union pressure. Results include:

  • Workers in NLRB elections were twice as likely (46% vs. 23%) as those in card check campaigns to report that management coerced them to oppose the union.
  • Of all workers surveyed (election and card check combined), four times as many workers reported that management coerced them “a great deal” as opposed to the union (22% vs. 6%).
  • Fewer workers in card check campaigns than in elections felt pressure from coworkers to support the union (17% vs. 22%).
  • Fewer than one in twenty (4.6%) workers who signed a card with a union organizer reported that the presence of the organizer made them feel pressured to sign the card.

In card check campaigns, employers freely choose to recognize a labor union when a majority of employees provide signed cards authorizing union representation. Card check procedures are commonly paired with neutrality agreements. These voluntary pacts between employers and union representatives establish a code of conduct that prohibits each party from disparaging the other or using intimidating, coercive tactics on employees. Under this process, both parties work together to set rules that give workers a chance to freely decide to form a union without pressure or interference from either side. Profitable employers like Cingular Wireless and Kaiser Permanente attest that this process significantly reduces costly, drawn-out conflicts that commonly surround NLRB election mechanisms.

“Looking at the survey results, one can only conclude that card check opponents are trying to solve the wrong problem,” says American Rights at Work Executive Director Mary Beth Maxwell. “If protecting workers’ free choice is really the goal, then you’ve got to start by ending management coercion.”

Fact Over Fiction: Opposition to Card Check Doesn’t Add Up is available for download here .

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