7/9/08

AFL-CIO responds to secret-ballot ads

Related video: "Franken opposes secret-ballot"

Dems want to end secret-ballot union recognition elections

"The Sopranos" run on HBO ended a year ago, but mobster Johnny Sacramoni appeared on Minnesota television recently in ads paid for by the business-backed "Coalition for a Democratic Workplace." The Minnesota AFL-CIO has called on U.S. Senator Norm Coleman to denounce the ad and its attack on the Employee Free Choice Act, federal legislation that would ease unionization in workplaces by replacing secret-ballot recognition elections with a 'card-check' system.



In the ad, actor Vince Curatola from "The Sopranos" is cast in character as a mob boss who criticizes Coleman for opposing the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act
and then praises "my pal Al," U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken, who is running against Coleman.

"We condemn these ads," said Steve Hunter, secretary-treasurer of the Minnesota AFL-CIO, speaking at a news conference Tuesday at the State Capitol. "We find these ads clearly wrong and furthermore they are demeaning to workers and to their unions and to our fellow union member, Al Franken."

Hunter added that the ad stirs up tired stereotypes of union leaders as union bosses linked to organized crime. "Somehow they're trying to tie Al Franken to negative stereotypes of union leaders," Hunter said.

(The Minnesota AFL-CIO has endorsed Franken in the U.S. Senate race).

The announcer in the ad states that "Norm Coleman says keep the secret ballot for union organizing elections" while adding that "Franken says eliminate the secret ballot for workers."

But, Hunter said, the message in the ad is "deceptive and inaccurate" and a false characterization of the Employee Free Choice Act, which Coleman opposes and Franken supports.

Since 1935, Hunter explained, federal law has provided two routes to union recognition: when a majority of workers in a workplace sign union authorization cards or when a majority of workers vote for union representation in an election supervised by the National Labor Relations Board.

Under current law, however, the employer can refuse to recognize the signed authorization cards. Instead, the employer can insist on an NLRB election. Then, "they use the election process to intimidate employees," Hunter noted. "We don't think that's a fair and democratic way to have an election."

The proposed Employee Free Choice Act gives workers, not employers, the choice to decide whether union authorization cards or an NLRB election determine union recognition, Hunter said. The legislation would recognize a union if a simple majority of workers in the workplace sign union authorization cards. Hunter emphasized that the legislation does not eliminate secret ballot elections: an NLRB election would take place if 30 percent of the workers in the workplace requested an election.

"The sad fact is that Senator Coleman understands this," Hunter said. "We ask him to condemn the ads."

Commenting on the ad's use of a character from the Sopranos, a reporter asked Hunter, "do you find anything humorous here?"

Hunter replied: "I don't find it humorous when you talk about workers' rights."

Hunter's request to Coleman: "I would ask the Senator to say ‘thanks but no thanks' [to the group paying for the ad] and ask them to take the ad off the air."

Similar ads have appeared in other states with close U.S. Senate races, Hunter said.

(workdayminnesota.org)

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

If the unions hate it, then it must be a good idea!

Anonymous said...

I wrote the story above BUT you have edited parts of it to reflect your biases. This story is NOT the same story that appeared on WorkDay Minnesota, although you are attributing it to WorkDay (See original at http://www.workdayminnesota.org).

If you're pulling stories from other sources, you should do so honestly, and reprint the entire story as originally published.

Anonymous said...

Huh. I don't get that at all. It seems to me the story carries the same bias as the other "version". Maybe I'm not reading close enough but that's my take.

Anonymous said...

Under current law, however, the employer can refuse to recognize the signed authorization cards. Instead, the employer can insist on an NLRB election. Then, "they use the election process to intimidate employees," Hunter noted. "We don't think that's a fair and democratic way to have an election."

Regarding the passage above, I'd like to point out that there is a reason why the system is set up so that an employer can set up an NLRB election if their workforce has signed enough union cards.

Unions use a variety of tactics - some are disengenous - to have workers sign union cards. I know of workers who were told it was simply a card they should fill out in order for the union to send them information. Others were told they would receive free beer and hot dogs for filling out cards. Also, unions visit the homes of workers and intimidate them into signing cards.

The NLRB elections allow both mangement and unions to have a fair opportunity to present the pros and cons of unionization. Unions often win around 50% of these NLRB-style elections.

I don't see how the EFCA process is a more democratic method of organizing a workplace. True democracy cannot exist without an informed voting public and a level of secrecy - two characteristics that the EFCA will eliminate.

Anonymous said...

Read the bill H.R. 800 - it's at thomas.gov

There is no provision that would allow a union recognition election. Such elections would be made a thing of the past. The only choice to workers under EFCA is whether or not to sign a card. And once 50% plus 1 sign, the union is in, without any election. That means that for about half the workers, there will be NO CHOICE AT ALL.

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