Proposed bill could make union organizing easier

Posted December 11, 2008

— As workers at the Smithfield Foods Inc. hog-processing plant in Bladen County on Thursday completed one of the most contentious union votes ever in North Carolina, pending federal legislation could make future votes unnecessary.

The Employee Free Choice Act, which passed the U.S. House last year but has been bogged down in the Senate ever since, would amend federal labor laws to allow for greater use of "card checks" to form unions. Under the proposal, the National Labor Relations Board would have to certify a union without ordering a secret-ballot election if a majority of the workers in a plant signed authorization cards.

President-elect Barack Obama supports the legislation, but critics say the bill would make it harder for workers to reject a union.

"This (bill) will be bad for North Carolina's economy. This will cost North Carolina jobs. This will raise the cost of doing business," said Sherry Melton, spokeswoman for the North Carolina Chamber.

State business leaders are worried about opening the door for more unions, especially as the economy crumbles, Melton said.

"What we hear most often is North Carolina's low unionization rate and talented labor pool are two of the main reasons (companies locate and expand) here," she said.

North Carolina is one of the least unionized states in the country, with close to 97 percent of workers lacking union representation. As a so-called "right-to-work state," even when a business is unionized, employees aren't required to join.

"This is a 'right-to-work-for-less' state," said James Andrews, president of the state chapter of the AFL-CIO. "We are in this (national economic) mess because of the mentality of the free market run wild – businesses do whatever you want to satisfy business."

Workers need unions more than ever in the tough economy, Andrews said.

"It is a way to protect the middle class and get folks and workers that want to bargain to the bargaining table and begin to move wages – stagnant wages – up again," he said.

Chuck Wright, who runs a property maintenance company with 70 employees, said that he treats his workers fairly because it's good business, not because a union forces his hand.

"I will not run a business for one minute while it's unionized." Wright said. "I don't know what they say about 'the man' back there (among employees). I may not like to know; maybe a good thing I don't know. But I do know our guys stay with us a long time."


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  • SANDHILL Dec 12, 2008

    Some people, especially union supporters fail to understand that stagnant wages are better than no wages at all.

  • whatusay Dec 12, 2008

    Look what unions have done to the state of Illinois. I believe employees should be "required" to vote every 4 years whether they want to keep the union, or kick it out. Majority wins. Not the once a company is unionized always unionized, as it is now.

  • White Eagle Dec 12, 2008

    At a low paying summer factory job I had while in college I was forced to join a union. While I had to immediately start paying union dues I was informed that I needed to work for 3 months before I would be eligible for any union benefits. Problem was, the job was for just short of 3 months but I still had to pay dues. When I pointed out that I was paying dues from my meager salary but getting nothing in return to the union rep, he just smiled. Initially I refused to join and the union threatened a wildcat strike to force me to join. My employer was sympathetic to my plight and offered an immediate pay increase to cover the cost of my dues.

    Unions can be useful when employers take advantage of the workers but at the same time, unions should have to be recertified every few years by the employees.

  • SANDHILL Dec 11, 2008

    This would be just what we need to change this recession to a real depression. If it passed just watch what little manufacturing we have left depart for cheap labor elsewhere.

  • 1Moms_View Dec 11, 2008

    The last thing we need here is a union like this.

  • whatelseisnew Dec 11, 2008

    The dems in congress will do their best to pass this trash. The unions is one of their owners. Why do you think they are pushing to give the auto companies money. It is a piece of the payoff to their union pals. But hey those unions are really helping Ford GM and Chrysler, aren't they?

  • DrJ Dec 11, 2008

    I love the part about how unions will make it easier to drive up "stagnant" wages for employees during tough economic times. Uh, why do you think those wages are stagnant???

    Unions once served a useful function in some areas. But with so many laws in place now, and other safeguards available, like the press and the internet, they are no longer anything but extortion rings.

  • mjeffrey Dec 11, 2008

    I would argue that article I, section 8 DOES give them the authority to do this with businesses, so long that that business conducts business across state lines, that being interstate commerce. If business does only conduct its business in one state, then Congress would not have the authority, but it todays world, many businesses in some way conduct business across state lines, that being either buying from suppliers in other states or shipping goods across state lines to other customers.

  • TruthBKnown Banned Again02 Dec 11, 2008

    This is what you get when democrats are in power.

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Dec 11, 2008

    I would imagine this bill doesn't have a chance to be approved. If it does, I have extremely over-estimated the common sense in the bulk of our elected officials.