George Orwell had nothing on Big Labor, and apparently, the New York Times. The paper gives a credulous reading to the union’s position that two failed elections in a Louisville hospital to organize nurses shows the need for Card Check and the elimination of the secret ballot. Instead, the outcome shows how easily card-check systems can get manipulated to overwhelm the will of the majority:
The battle has ground on for 20 years. In 1989 and again in 1994, a clear majority of nurses at a Louisville, Ky., hospital signed cards saying they wanted a union. But each time a majority of the nurses later voted down the idea when it was put to a secret ballot.
Organized labor points to the fight at Norton Audubon Hospital as proof that America’s labor laws need to be overhauled: judges ruled that management had prevailed by illegally intimidating and firing nurses.
Nurses who want a union plan to try again, and they had expected a Democratic president and Congress to retool labor laws to make it easier to win. Instead, in Louisville and around the country, organized labor may be facing a major setback in the most contentious fight over labor laws since the 1940s.
In this fight, the NLRB found many violations of law by management regarding their efforts to persuade the nurses not to unionize. Seven years ago, a judge ordered the union recognized as a penalty against management, even though the union lost in a secret ballot 366 to 220, an overwhelming majority. An appellate court upheld other penalties against the hospital, but overturned the recognition — which means the union has to hold another organizing effort.
Now, if management treated people that badly, then one might expect the nurses to overwhelmingly support a union for their own protection. A secret ballot would give them the best opportunity to implement that, clearly and honestly. So far, the nurses have not opted to do that, which speaks louder than the court about where the nurses see their best interests.
What lesson are we to take from this story? Is it that management intimidated the nurses so badly that they somehow forced the nurses to vote against unionization in secret, even though they had publicly signed cards supporting the organizing effort? Does that make any sense at all? The obvious explanation is that the act of getting signed cards does not accurately reflect the wishes of the workers, and that any intimidation that occurred would have impacted the card-check process — where people are public about their positions — rather than in the secret ballot that followed.
Recall this previous post: Video: Another cautionary Card Check tale. In that case, the employer colluded with the union to use Card Check instead of a secret ballot in order to get a loan, and it took a secret ballot initiated by the employees to chase the union out of the workplace. The secret ballot is the antidote to intimidation by both sides and should be protected as a key part of the process in organizing workplaces.