Manufacturing Focus: Our Weekly Feature Article on Topics Related to Manufacturing Management  

- July 6, 2010 -

Supply Chain News: Card Check Unionization Bill May Quickly Reappear, as US Labor Gets Active

Sen. Harkin says Bill Likely to be Re-Introduced in Senate in 2010, as New UAW Chief Vows to "Pound" Toyota




US Labor Leaders, unhappy with what most view as slow progress in their agenda with a Democratic Congress and Executive branch, are ramping up efforts and likely heartened to hear a leading Senate Democrat say the controversial "card check" bill could see action in the Senate yet this year.

The Employee Free Choice Act, known as the card check legislation, would give a number of important rights to workers long sought by unions, including the ability to form a union by simply signing a card rather than secret ballot. Most business interests are concerned that would lead to worker intimidation, as workers refusing to sign the card would be quickly targeted by union activists.

SCDigest Says:

With many viewing that the Fall elections will add more Republicans to the Senate, making passage in that chamber even more difficult, Harkin said action could come in the so-called "lame duck" sessions between the November vote and when the elected Senators take office.

Click Here to See Reader Feedback

The bill, which passed the House in 2007, also required arbitration and a forced contract if the two sides were unable to reach an agreement within 90 days of a new union being formed. For the first time, it would also mandate that companies let union officials into company presentations to workers during the unionization effort.

A variety of business organizations have been actively fighting passage of the bill in the Senate, and individual companies have been hiring consultants to help them prepare for the potential passage of the bill and how to best inoculate themselves from union risk. Distribution centers and retail store chains have been particularly active in such efforts. 

Bill's Announced Death in Senate May have been Premature

With even some Democrats in the Senate opposed to the bill, and a variety of other contentious legislation such as the health care bill soaking up much of the Democrats  energy and political capital earlier this year, most political pundits saw little chance for action in the Senate in 2010, even though the Obama administration has been solidly behind The Free Choice Act from the start.

Now, Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, always a strong supporter of the labor movement, has said announcement of the bill's death may have been very premature.

"To those who think it's dead, I say think again," Harkin said recently on the Bill Press radio show.

"We're still trying to maneuver," Harkin added, explaining that if Democrats can't move the bill in its entirety, they might try to pass key parts of the union-organizing legislation individually.

With many viewing that the Fall elections will add more Republicans to the Senate, making passage in that chamber even more difficult, Harkin said action could come in the so-called "lame duck" sessions between the November vote and when the elected Senators take office.

"A lot of things can happen in a lame-duck session, too," Harkin said in a recent speech to the United Auto Workers union.

(Manufacturing Article - Continued Below)




Is E-Voting a First Step?

Meanwhile, business groups are also concerned that the Obama administration may try to move down the path to card check though regulatory means rather than legislation.

Recently, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a “request for information” that asks federal contractors how they would administer a union electronic voting system, in place of the paper ballots used currently. The notice asks contractors to provide information on how they would implement a system and how much it would cost. 

NLRB “is going to look for ways to implement, if not the letter of card-check, then its spirit,” said Glenn Spencer, executive director of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Workforce Freedom Initiative. “They will look for ways around the private ballot, taking the worker out of the privacy of the ballot booth. This is just the first step.”

NLRB, however, responded to the criticism by saying that the use of electronic voting would be in support of secret-ballot elections.

Added the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, a pro-business group: “Among other adverse impacts, using electronic means to permit off-site, or remote, voting during union organizing elections will subject employees to a level of intimidation and coercion that does not occur during an on-site, private ballot election that is directly supervised by the NLRB,” the coalition said in the letter. “Electronic voting bears a striking resemblance to the card-check scheme.”

Toyota in Cross-Hairs

At the same time, new UAW president Bob King vowed the union would "pound Toyota," whose US factories are non-union, until factory workers there joined the UAW. He hoped to use the negative publicity around the supposed sticking accelerators in many Toyota models to garner public support.

King vowed to bring protesters, including retirees, to picket outside Toyota dealerships with banners charging that the automaker puts "Profits Before People."

"We're going to pound on Toyota until they recognize the First-Amendment rights of workers to come into the UAW," King told over 1,000 UAW members at the same convention in Detroit that Sen. Harkin made his comments.

UAW has been miffed that Toyota is closing  a Fremont, CA plant that it had been operating in partnership with General Motors that had produced the Corolla and Tacoma models for Toyota and was unionized. In a move that further angered the union, Toyota announced on Thursday that it would shift production of the Corolla sedan to a still-unfinished and likely non-union  plant in Mississippi.


Do you think the Card Check bill could come to a vote and even pass yet in 2010? Is e-voting something to worry about similar to card check, or a non-issue? Will the UAW succeed with Toyota? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback button below.

SCDigest is Twittering!

  Follow us now at

Send an Email