Local Politics

Debate rages over union-organizing legislation

Posted July 20, 2009
Updated July 21, 2009

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— Pro- and anti-union groups continue to lobby Congress as the Senate nears passage of a controversial bill that could make organizing workplaces easier.

The Employee Free Choice Act would overhaul labor laws to help unions sign up more members. The bill calls for binding arbitration within 120 days if a new union and management can't agree on a first contract and stiffens penalties on businesses that threaten or intimidate workers trying to form a union.

Anti-union rally Amended union bill still tough sell in N.C.

To ensure enough Democrats would back the bill to overcome any Republican filibuster attempt, supporters are trying to convince unions to drop a provision permitting "card check" organizing efforts. Under that provision, 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.

"I believe majority sign-up is the way," said James Andrews, president of the North Carolina chapter of the AFL-CIO labor union. "I believe that this legislation is extremely important if we're going to give workers the right to do what the law says – that is the right to organization and association."

Chuck Wright, who owns the Wright Group, a Raleigh-based property maintenance company, said dropping "card check" wouldn't really soften the bill from his perspective.

"It took a horrible bill that could not pass, and it made it an awful bill that might pass," Wright said. "I went into business to own a business so I'd be in control. Once it becomes union, I'm not in control."

Business groups like the North Carolina Chamber and the North Carolina Retail Merchants Association remain vehemently opposed to the Employee Free Choice Act.

"The North Carolina Chamber will oppose any compromise that is unbalanced and takes away the rights of employers and employees when it comes to important workplace decisions," chamber officials said in a statement. "From the reports we have heard, only unions have been involved in work on a compromise, leaving employers and employees out of the process."

Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr said he still opposes the bill – with or without the "card check" provision – while Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan said she wants to review any proposed changes before taking a stance on the bill.

North Carolina is the least-unionized state in the nation, with about 3 percent of workers represented by unions. Nationwide, more than 12 percent of workers nationwide belong to unions.

Union leaders point to the recent organization and contract at Smithfield Packing's hog-processing plant in Bladen County as a success story and said other companies could follow suit without a problem.

"They're still killing hogs. They're still making a profit. The world continues to go on," Andrews said.

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  • Tax Man Jul 21, 2009

    You need a private ballot where everyone who supports or opposes the unions gets to vote without worrying about what others may think of them. The Card Check system is not AMERICAN - it reeks of the Nazi's! Plus, even if a business is Unionized, all workers should have the RIGHT to refuse to join the Union and no dues should be used for anything other than benefits of the members - no political contributions or donations! And all Union bosses need to be regular employees who do not receive any compensation for their union activities! And if a Union goes out on strike or some other work stoppage/slowdown, the members must be able to say NO and continue to work if they personally choose, without any ramifications from the Union or other Unions. My personal experience with the Unions I was forced to join was that they did not do anything positive for me - they just cost me money and time off work without pay and the bosses kept getting their big, fat paychecks! Right to Work!

  • babedan Jul 21, 2009

    If this passes, then all manufacturing will run for other countries and set up shop there taking millions of jobs away from US Citizens. The first will be the UAW targeting Toyota, Honda, Nissian etc. They will buy votes then these companies will close their factories. Also, can you imagine the price hikes that will be in your grocery stores, department stores etc. if the Unions get control, have to pay for those wages and benefits somehow. Just another way to socialize this country if you ask me.

  • bettyboopr2 Jul 21, 2009

    I pity the fool who ask me to sign a union card.

  • no contest Jul 21, 2009

    This card check scheme does nothing more than give the power and money hungry unions the information they need to harass the worker that does not want to join a union. The union will now be able to target a person that does NOT want be a union member. If you don’t believe that a person would be harassed then go hang around some union workers and just listen. Doesn’t a person have a right to not join a union without harassment? Where else in this free country of America do you have to place your name on a ballot when you vote? Freedom!

  • itsnotmeiswear Jul 21, 2009

    I supported Obama, but this is a bad bill as written for employers and workers. It gives the union an unfair advantage.

  • Bob3425 Jul 21, 2009

    Just look what the UAW did for the autoworkers.