Union 'Card Check' Smokescreen for Lame Duck Pension Bailout

Big Labor is pouring money into two Democratic U.S. Senate races, attempting to secure a union pension bailout during a lame duck session of Congress.

As previously reported on HUMAN EVENTS, new Financial Accounting Standards Board rules set to take effect on Dec. 15 threaten to shake up unions and the businesses entangled in multi-employer union pension plans that have been mismanaged and underfunded well before the 2008 financial upheaval.  The economic downturn has only exacerbated the problem.

Recent reports show hundreds of thousands of dollars in union cash pouring into races for Democratic Senate candidates Michael Bennet and Joe Manchin.  Both have publicly backed away from their support of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), more commonly known as “card check,” which would, among other things, ban secret-ballot voting for workplace unionization.

Big Labor long ago warned it wouldn’t support any candidate who failed to toe the line. Yet the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) has spent more than $1.2 million in Colorado alone attacking Bennet’s opponent Ken Buck.

Unions such as the Communications Workers of America and the United Mine Workers Union are also pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into the Manchin race in West Virginia.

Why the reversal?

Claims of holding on to Senate majorities for passage of the card check legislation is a ruse, according to Brett McMahon, spokesman for the Associated Builders and Contractors, a trade organization.

“EFCA is dead for the next Congress,” McMahon told HUMAN EVENTS.  “Labor has blown any leverage they’ve had.”

McMahon says the Obama Administration National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is effectively poised to make card check passage less urgent for unions through several new plans they’re on the verge of putting into effect.

According to former NLRB member John Raudabaugh, who served on the board from mid-1990 to 1993, one such avenue being floated by the current NLRB is a reduction in the time allotted to allow the certification voting process to take place. 

“What the labor board is planning to do is not known publicly so you only interpret what they’re planning to do by certain comments from different board members,” Raudabaugh said.  

He points to one speech in particular from NLRB member Mark Gaston Pearce on Oct. 21 at Suffolk University Law School, where Pearce admitted his desire to make the unionization voting period “as brief as possible.”

Pearce also described as “intriguing” the five- to ten-day Canadian voting system.

The current average is 38 days including the initial administrative time to process the petition and notify the employer and to hold hearings on differing issues, including eligibility.

Raudabaugh warns that the reduced voting period would allow unions to organize in secret for weeks or months and spring last-minute elections on unknowing employers, especially when no “agitated state” to spur on unionization exists.  Most of these employers run smaller businesses without a legal department of their own, so they do not necessarily know the rules.

 “Many are started really rather below the surface attracting the core interested persons and they gain momentum,” Raudabaugh said.  “It takes time sometimes if there’s not a real issue motivating people to coalesce.  They take weeks, months to develop a core constituency and the employer may not be aware.”

This lends itself to a situation where employees are only hearing one side of the unionization story.

“If you’re going to effectively cut employers back and silence them you’ve got employees who are listening to one party.  Like anything in life, there’s probably multiple views on each and every issue,” Raudabaugh said.  “Do we want our fellow citizens, neighbors, friends and family members to make a selection based on as much information as they could gather before they made a decision or do you want them to vote on all of the obvious positive things said by one party and in the meantime lambasting and trashing the other party?  It’s almost like junior high politics.”

McMahon cautions that these types of unionization decisions are not like electing a politician, a situation in which you can change your mind in four years.

“Unlike a vote for elected office, a vote to certify a union may affect your life for the remainder of your working days,” McMahon said.  “Isn’t it just logical that the decision should be made on all information available?”

In September, the NLRB also announced that it was reviewing one of its landmark decisions, Dana Corp.

On September 27, 2007, employees of Dana Corp. of Indiana were able to de-certify a successful United Auto Workers’ Union “card check” certification campaign that employees later claimed was performed by using intimidation and coercion. 

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation represented the Dana employees and compiled a video of employees’ statements of the types of intimidation and threats used to coerce employees into signing the authorization card.  The “voluntary” union certification occurs when half of the company’s employees signed the dotted line during this “card check” process.

Currently, “voluntarily” certification takes place when a union secures from a company a “neutrality” pre-agreement to use the card-check process for union certification—usually in exchange for other considerations.  Employees at this point have had no say whatsoever on whether or not a card-check process should be used. 

Since the Dana decision in 2007, employees have had up to 45 days from the “voluntary” certification date to force a secret ballot vote.

In late August, a majority of three NLRB members voted in favor of a review of the Dana case.  If the original decision is overturned it would deny individual employees the rights and protections offered by a secret ballot election.  All three of these board members are former labor union lawyers, two having been given their positions by Obama through recess appointment after having been rejected in one form or another by the Senate.

The activist nature of the Obama NLRB is exemplified by former Service Employees International Union lawyer and board member Craig Becker, who has to date refused to recuse himself from two different decisions on cases he was actively involved in as a union lawyer.  This puts Becker in the absurd position of judging his own legal briefs to render a decision.

These two changes at NLRB would make card-check passage much less pressing for Big Labor,  whose priority is a bailout of underwater union pensions while they’re still able to afford to make payments to retirees. 

As with all Ponzi schemes, they need a new influx of cash to prop up the system, and union leaders believe they have found a way to put these private union pensions on the backs of taxpayers. 

The likelihood of passage of the bailout through the Senate depends largely on the outcome of the three special elections to fill the remainder of the terms of the late Sen. Robert Byrd and former Sens. Barack Obama and Joe Biden.  The victors in these three races will be seated for the lame duck session. 

Legislation from Sen. Bob Casey (D-Penn.) is all geared up and ready to go.  The Casey bill would put a new line item into the budget, creating a new government fund to perpetuate a permanent avenue for the bailout of private union pensions.

The Democrat-led lame duck session is slated to begin Nov. 15, namely after the elections but before the non-special election members are sworn in on Jan. 3 of next year.

If he wins the West Virginia special election, Manchin would offer a key vote favoring Big Labor in support of a Senate union pension bailout. Regardless of the election outcome in Colorado, Bennet would participate in the lame duck session.