WASHINGTON, D.C. | March 12, 2009
The following op-ed by Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (R-CA), the top Republican on the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee, appears in today’s edition of The Washington Examiner.
Canada has Card Check lessons for U.S.
By Rep. Howard McKeon, OpEd Contributor
3/13/09 5:17 AM
This may come as a surprise, but when it comes to American labor law, we have a lot to learn from our neighbors to the north. It turns out that the pitched battle now underway in the halls of Congress over whether workers ought to organize by secret ballot has been played out, repeatedly, over the last several decades in Canada.
Here in the U.S., Democratic members of Congress backed by powerful union leaders have proposed legislation with the misleading moniker of the “Employee Free Choice Act” (EFCA), or “Card Check.” It’s hard to conjure a more disingenuously titled bill.
Rather than ensuring employees’ free choice by guaranteeing their right to vote by secret ballot, EFCA replaces federally-supervised elections with a majority sign-up process that requires workers to publicly disclose whether they wish to join a particular union.
The potential for intimidation, coercion, and the threat of retribution is self-evident.
The unionization-by-public-card-signing process Democrats propose is not a new idea. Such card checks have been used sparingly in this country, with sometimes disturbing results. Just this week, the U.S. Senate heard testimony from a worker who reported bullying and intense public pressure to sign the card against his wishes.
Stories like these are troubling, but ultimately, this country’s experience with card checks is limited. If we wish to see a true picture of the consequences of widespread card check unionizing, we need only look to Canada.
For the last three decades, Canadian provinces have shifted between card check union certification and secret ballot voting. Because Canadian labor law is largely determined at a provincial level, even today there are some provinces that rely on the public sign-up process and others that permit workers to vote by secret ballot.
The Canadian experience allows for comparisons within provinces that have shifted from secret ballots to card checks, as well as among provinces that even today rely on one procedure versus the other.
Early this month, Dr. Anne Layne-Farrar, an economist with the non-partisan firm LECG Consulting, released a report projecting how the American economy would fare under a card check regime, based on similar experiences in Canada. The results were stunning.
Dr. Layne-Farrar estimates that the U.S. economy would likely see a one percentage point rise in the unemployment rate for every three percentage points gained in union membership through card checks and mandatory arbitration.
If labor bosses are correct in predicting that EFCA would result in 1.5 million existing jobs becoming unionized in the law’s first year, it would translate to 600,000 fewer American jobs the following year.
Not surprisingly, Canadians are taking notice of the card check ploy making its way through Congress and they’re warning us against it. John Mortimer, president of the Canadian LabourWatch Association, has called EFCA “a knock-off of the worst of Canadian labour law.” He cites research showing reductions in productivity, research and development spending, and profits as a consequence of card check organizing.
Susan Martinuk, a columnist with the Calgary Herald, wrote last week about how workers have been victimized by card checks. “Seven female employees (who represented the entire non-management staff at a bank in Lively, Ontario) decided to challenge union practices after they were forcibly unionized by card signing. They launched complaints to the federal labor board, citing intimidation, coercion, misinformation and invasion of privacy—all in the name of card signing. In one case, a woman alone in a remote home received a surprise nighttime visit from union organizers who refused to leave until she signed the card—even after her repeated requests they do so.”
Canadians have experienced higher unemployment, stagnant job creation, and lower productivity as a result of card check. And what did workers get in the bargain? Intimidation and coercion. Talk about a lose-lose proposition. On this, I’m willing to take the Canadians’ word for it.
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