Economic Snapshot | Unions and Labor Standards

No coercion in card check

Economic Snapshot for August 19, 2009

By Ross Eisenbrey with research assistance by Kathryn Edwards

Employees who want to form or join unions to help them bargain for better wages and working conditions generally have two routes to gain representation. They can engage in an election process supervised by a government agency or can submit a petition or collection of signed authorization cards that demonstrate majority support for the union, commonly known as majority sign-up or card check.

Private sector employees, whose union rights are supervised by the National Labor Relations Board, can use both routes, but majority sign-up is available only if the employer agrees. Legislation before Congress, the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), would remove the employer’s veto and leave employees free to choose majority sign-up if they prefer.

Without any evidence to support their claim, EFCA’s opponents argue that unions will coerce employees to sign authorization cards or obtain a majority through fraud.1 A recent report, however, suggests that this claim is frivolous.

A study2 of four states—Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, and New York—that have had majority sign-up for public sector employees for many years failed to turn up a single meritorious case of coercion or fraud in more than 1,000 majority sign-up campaigns involving 34,000 employees between 2003 and 2009 (see Chart). In all, there were only five complaints alleging coercion, and not one was shown to have any merit.



1. R. Bruce Josten, letter opposing the “Employee Free Choice Act,” June 20, 2007.

2. Majority Authorizations and Union Organizing in the Public Sector: A Four-State Perspective, May 14, 2009. A joint research project of the University of Illinois School of Labor and Employment Relations, Department of Labor Studies and Employment Relations; Rutgers University, Extension Division, School of Industrial and Labor Relations; Cornell University; University of Oregon, Labor Education and Research Center.

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