Liberty News

Employers could be blindsided by unions

On February 5, 2009, in Card Check, Corruption, Unions Revealed, by Warner Todd Huston

Richard Berman, executive director of the Center for Union Facts, has a new one in the Orlando Sentinel. Great points, too.

Richard Berman, Orlando Sentinel

Ford Motor Co. just reported its worst full-year loss. On the same day, Ford also reported that the United Auto Workers had finally agreed to end its jobs-bank program, which pays unemployed factory workers a near full salary for not working. This raises the question (or answer) of why foreign competition has been so much more successful in building and selling cars at a profit.

Looking and learning from their American counterparts, foreign automakers came to America and immediately launched campaigns to educate their employees about the costs of unionization. Whatever unrealistic labor terms (the Ford agreement is more than 2,000 pages) were offered to employees of the American brands, employees of the foreign brands knew it came at a great cost.

And should the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act pass Congress, we should expect similar campaigns to be reproduced on a scale that is wider and more vigorous than ever before.

In their forceful campaigning against current election law, union officials have forgotten the basic Newtonian law of every action triggering an equal and opposite reaction. And that may prove to be disastrous. Consider current labor-election procedures. If union organizers hit a threshold of employee signatures, a federal agency conducts a secret-ballot election, usually within 60 days. In that time period, employees have the opportunity to hear from both sides regarding the pros and cons of unionization.

As in a presidential campaign, the campaign window allows people to make the best decision by giving access to all the information about the “candidates.” But your “signature equals your vote” process means a small workplace unit can be unionized overnight. Employers could be blindsided with little chance of informing their employees about the downsides of a union-run workplace.

In this new environment, enlightened employers won’t sit still while the threat of stealth unionization hangs over them. They will shift from reactive information campaigns to preemptive and permanent campaign mode, much like the transplant foreign-car manufacturers employ today.

Beginning with hiring orientations, every entering employee will receive an unambiguous image of unions. Subsequent regular meetings, mailings and casual conversations will be salted with “booster shots,” educating employees about the costs of union influence in the workplace. Labor leaders will have triggered the law of unintended consequences.

Companies will access what every politician knows: Negative campaigning works.

How eagerly will employees sign unionization cards when they preemptively learn about the corruption permeating unions? The Office of Labor-Management Standards reports an average of two criminal convictions for union corruption or embezzlement of dues every week since 2001.

How will unions look when employers start year-round publicizing of the shameful condition of union pension plans? According to government data, none of the largest unions have fully funded plans. Large union plans are six times more likely to be in “critical status” than nonunion plans. (And that was before the current stock market meltdown.) With the UAW/GM debacle still fresh, employers won’t hesitate to trace the clear trajectory from exorbitant promises made to members to debilitating inefficiencies, and job losses.

Those unaware of restrictive union-driven cultures might withhold their signature when they learn promotions and merit-based pay are often traded for rigid seniority in union shops.

A 2005 Zogby poll indicates a majority of Americans believe “employers should be able to provide employees with information about unions and the potential impact of unionizing on their jobs.” And 87 percent of Americans agree that workers deserve a private ballot in a workplace election.

Corporations have clear public support for providing this education. But until now, there has been no reason to employ an early-education program. Labor leaders may soon begin to appreciate the true meaning of “be careful what you wish for.”

Richard Berman is executive director of the Center for Union Facts, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) union-watchdog organization in Washington, D.C.

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