Is the current process for union certification in Hawaii working?
|HAROLD J. DIAS JR.|
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF INDEPENDENT BUSINESS
A:The current process for ensuring and protecting workers’ rights to form a union is badly broken and altogether useless for ensuring fairness and democracy. Allow me to demonstrate.
Imagine that you are a candidate running for state office. This is what your experience would be like if the current National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) process was applied to your election:
Your opponent would not have to face an election until you collected signed cards from 30 percent of the total people in your district saying that they want an election. However, you wouldn’t be allowed in the district to get the cards signed.
If you were somehow able to get 30 percent signed and force an election, you would not be allowed in your district to campaign.
Your opponent would have unlimited TV time, including several hours a day of compulsory viewing. Your opponent could encourage everyone to wear his shirts and caps and retaliate against those wearing your shirts and caps.
Your supporters would risk losing their livelihoods. Your opponent could fire your supporters to send voters a message. Your opponent could prohibit your supporters from going to your rallies.
Should your opponent get caught threatening your supporters, he would only have to sign and post a letter saying he wouldn’t do it again.
Only your opponent would have access to the voters list and he could delay the election if he thought that he’d do better later. The election would be held in your opponent’s headquarters and voters would have to file by his supporters as they voted.
And, if you were miraculously able to win, you couldn’t take office because it would take years of litigation to enforce the election results.
No one would consider such an election process as this fair, yet this is exactly what workers must endure in order to gain union representation in this country.
A: Hawaii legislators this year approved changes to the current process for union certification which could have negatively impacted Hawaii’s businesses and the economy, by eliminating workers’ rights to a secret ballot when deciding whether to approve union certification. Small businesses opposed the change and Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed the measure.
Although entitled the Employee “Free Choice Act,” the proposed changes to the current process for union certification are part of a national trend removing an employee’s right to a secret ballot, attempting to make it easier for unions to organize in a workplace, particularly a small business.
Free employee choice is and should be based on private-ballot elections. Outside the privacy of a voting booth, it’s too easy for employees to be intimidated. A secret-ballot election administered and supervised by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is the only way to protect the integrity of a worker’s right to vote.
Employers should have a chance to present their sides. A discussion solely between a union representative and an employee is too one-sided. Organizing by card check is conducted so quickly that companies do not have a chance to explain to workers why they should not join unions.
Small businesses are most vulnerable to corporate campaign tactics typically associated with union authorization cards. Small businesses are less likely to have labor counsel and are more susceptible to complicated legal restrictions that employers face during organizing drives. Election statistics from the NLRB demonstrate that the bulk of union organizing is of small businesses. In the most recent year reported by NLRB, a full 70 percent of secret-ballot elections involved bargaining units of fewer than 50 employees.
In Hawaii, the National Federation of Independent Business represents more than 1,000 small businesses. NFIB members overwhelmingly oppose changes to Hawaii’s union certification process.
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