I Hate It When HR Pros Think They're Equal to Sales Pros...
You Want Your HR Team Aligned with the Business? I'll Keep It Simple For You...

Here's Why Companies That Have Used Card Check In The Past Are Silent These Days...

The most recent edition of Workforce Management magazine is wondering aloud why companies that recognize card check have been silent regarding the card check provision of the Employee Free Choice Act.  After all, they have it, so shouldn't they be for it or against it?

Card check may be dead in the EFCA, but the article is asking a good question - one you can learn from -Efca but the analysis provided in the Workforce article is killing me.  All they had to do was ask a VP of HR who's helped telecoms fight to remain union free and they would have had their answer.  More on that after the jump, but for now, more on the question from Workforce:

"In the cacophony of the debate on the Employee Free Choice Act, one particular voice that might quell fears about the use of card check over secret-ballot elections has been silent.  None of the major companies that currently use card check has stepped up to support the bill.

American Rights at Work, an Employee Free Choice Act advocacy group, says that more than 500,000 workers have joined unions through majority sign-up—another term for card check—since 2003. On its Web site, the organization praises companies that use the process for listening to their workers and treating them with respect. Advocates say that big companies that use card check are staying out of the debate because of bullying by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is leading the charge against the bill.Those cited include AT&T, Verizon and Kaiser Permanente.

 All three companies refused to comment on the Employee Free Choice Act and their labor relations. Another employer, Harley-Davidson, did not respond."

Dudes... The answer is simple.  I cut my teeth in the telecom industry, which included helping union-free arms of the big telecoms stay that way. 

Here's the reality: the only companies that are accepting card check for union-free operations are the ones with HUGE embedded unions elsewhere in the enterprise.  As a result of the presence of those unions, these companies are often open to negotiating their right to fight union organizing away in exchange for other concessions at a much larger negotiation table.

Example - BellSouth had a huge union presence within its landline (home phone and network) organization. At one time, its wireless operation was fiercely union-free.  It made the business decision that as part of the bigger picture, it could extract meaningful concessions from the union it was dealing with by offering a "neutrality" pact for it's union-free wireless operations.  As a result of giving that "neutrality" negotiation chip, BellSouth agreed not to aggressively tell its side of the story regarding the downside of unions.  Many neutrality agreements that are bargained away also include card-check provisions as well.  If you've already agreed NOT to be honest with your employees regarding why a union might be a bad idea, why not give up card check, right?

As you might expect, neutrality agreements almost guarantee that a work unit will be organized.  But it has nothing to do with believing in the validity of the card check concept.  It's part of a much larger picture.

So when it comes to AT&T and Verizon, the answer is clear.  They did it all for the nookie money.  They gave up card check because the union gave them something valuable at the negotiating table..  A bad exchange in my eyes, one made by those who don't have to live with the results.  They're silent alright - they don't believe in it, but gave it up anyway.  What are they supposed to say?  "We sold out those employees for the money"?

Card check may be dead for now in the EFCA, but damn - don't let someone force the Kool-Aid on you.  They're silent because they sold card check for another negotiating chip - a fact under-reported by the Workforce article and the only answer you need for that question.


Michael VanDervort

You nailed this - KD. It's all about the money and the already existing business realtionships. Once inside, it is a lot easier for a union to work on these types of deals. Same thing happened at UPS with the Teamsters when UPS wanted out of the Teamsters Pension plan. UPS had to give card check language on UPS Ground.

Matthew F.

Good for you to call it out. Too many people are willing to let themselves be lulled into thinking this is a good idea. (or are just too lazy to think about what it means in the long run)

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)