The United States Supreme Court has just struck down a high-profile California law that used taxpayer dollars to grease the skids for the coercive unionization of businesses and employees. Although the Chamber v. Brown decision represents a heartening rebuke of Big Labor’s overreach, employees nationwide remain vulnerable to the practices encouraged by the unconstitutional California statute.
By a vote of 7 to 2, the high court agreed with arguments raised by U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Right to Work Foundation attorneys that California’s law was pre-empted by provisions of federal labor law intended to secure an “uninhibited, robust, and wide-open debate” in the workplace on the question of whether to unionize.
California Democratic Gov. Gray Davis originally signed the bill into law in 2001. Similar laws are either on the books or under consideration in more than 20 states.
Under the guise of workplace “neutrality,” the voided California statute barred employers performing government contracts (or receiving over $10,000 annually in state grants) from using the funds to “assist, promote, or deter union organizing.”
The law gagged employers from providing factual and non-coercive information to employees about the possible downsides of unionization, and it essentially blackballed employers from government contracts unless they cleared the path for union organizers to recruit new mandatory dues-paying members.
The law effectively gave union organizers additional clout to pressure employers to assist union organizing by preventing employees from enjoying even the limited protections afforded by secret-ballot elections. Union agents obtain approval for the coercive “card check” organizing process and gain sweeping access to employees and their personal information.
The California law and others like it further open the door for union organizers to harass workers to authorize union “representation” they may not want. Card-check organizing methods have proven to be detrimental to employee free choice because they force workers to publicly declare their support or opposition to unionization when confronted by unrelenting (and often burly) union organizers.
The Supreme Court saw through the California law’s claim of supposed “neutrality.” As Justice John Paul Stevens noted in his majority opinion, the statute “permit[ted] use of state funds for select employer advocacy activities that promote unions.”
Although the court ruled in favor of employer free speech and employee free choice, workers remain vulnerable to an onslaught of intimidation brought on by card-check organizing drives. In one article about the ruling, an AFL-CIO union lawyer snickered that the outcome would only encourage union bosses to pour more money into passing the erroneously titled “Employee Free Choice Act.” That bill passed the House this year, but a filibuster has stalled it in the Senate. Even if Big Labor and its allies in the Senate don’t get it through this year, you can be sure they’ll be back in ’09.
This legislative power grab—endorsed by union-label politicians and bankrolled by union political funds—is designed to allow union bosses to bypass government-supervised secret ballot elections in favor of card check, tilting the playing field in favor of union organizers.
Union officials continue to expand the reach of coercive card-check organizing. Data obtained from the National Labor Relations Board by Right to Work attorneys show that, in the past six months, union officials successfully used card check to “persuade” employers in more than 250 American workplaces to bargain exclusively with union agents who did not even win a secret-ballot election of employees.
Focused on raising forced-union-dues dollars, union officials have made expanding Big Labor’s government-granted special privileges a top priority.
So, although the Supreme Court’s decision in Chamber v. Brown may slow coercive union organizing down from its current breakneck speed, workers likely face a renewed assault on their freedom of association after the November elections.