Unions view union security agreements as a primary source of dues, which they receive from all employees through the compulsory force of the law. Consequently, union negotiators often trade employees' economic benefits in order to gain the employer's agreement to compel each employee to contribute dues.
Guarantee the right of employees to vote, by secret-ballot election, to establish unions, approve strikes, pay union dues as a condition of employment, and ratify collective bargaining agreements.
Congress should amend the NLRA to guarantee the rights of all employees to vote to establish a union, approve a strike, agree to pay union dues as a condition of employment, and ratify union-negotiated labor contracts as follows:
Voting for a Union
In virtually all union organizing situations, employees should have a right to a secret-ballot election prior to choosing a union representative and before bargaining rights can be granted. Although the NLRA seems to provide employees with this important legal right, the NLRB often forces employers instead to recognize a union as its employees' bargaining agent merely by a show of signed authorization cards when a sufficient number of employer unfair labor practices have occurred in the eyes of the NLRB.141
It has long been apparent that authorization cards are not a true reflection of employee sentiment. A mandatory secret-ballot vote would provide the most accurate account of the employees' desires, and it should be guaranteed before locking employees into a collective bargaining setting which, if established, is difficult to reverse. It would also prevent an employer's recognition of a union based upon a mere card check.
Secret-ballot elections should be required by law, assuring that, in all certification circumstances, employees will be the sole architects of their own destiny and their representation selection; their choice will be preserved in an atmosphere of government-protected secrecy.
Voting to Strike
Employees should also enjoy the right to determine, through a secret-ballot election, whether or not they wish to commence or continue a strike. A strike can wipe out workers' savings or subject them to replacement. Certainly those individuals most directly affected by strike activities should have some voice in the decision to strike.
Under this approach, a strike referendum could be called by the union, the employer, or by 10 percent of the employees involved. Such a vote would be held at least five days prior to any strike and at 30-day intervals thereafter.
Currently, labor union officials may institute or continue strike action without a majority of unit employees or even union members confirming this action by a vote. Under current law,142 a secret-ballot process is suggested for strike votes but the process is not mandatory nor does not it address the situation where a strike is already in progress.
Congress should amend the NLRA to guarantee a secret-ballot procedure on strike votes, thus returning to employees the right to determine their own economic destiny, as their individual situations dictate. Even though strike activity is down, even fewer work stoppages would result if employees could retain control over their own fates. Accordingly, the law should forbid strikes that the majority of affected employees have not authorized or have voted to terminate.
Voting for Union Security Agreements
Employees currently have the right to file a petition, supported by a 30 percent showing of interest, to rescind a "union security" clause in their collective bargaining agreement.143 A union security clause is a contractual agreement between the employer and union that requires employees to become members of the union in order to retain their jobs. Once established in an agreement, a majority of employees in the bargaining unitnot just those who voted in the original representation electionare needed to remove a union security clause.
Unions understandably view union security agreements as a primary source of dues, which they receive from all employees through the compulsory force of the law. Consequently, union negotiators will often trade employees' economic benefits in order to gain the employer's agreement to compel each employee to contribute dues. Too often, employers agree to such a deal, leaving employees with less compensation, a restriction on their freedom, and another obligation to pay.
Employees should be allowed to vote on whether they will be required to contribute money to a union to retain their jobsbefore a union security clause goes into effect. Federal and Michigan collective bargaining laws should be changed to provide for this employee protection.
Voting to Approve Collective Bargaining Agreements
There is currently no requirement that employees be allowed to vote on acceptance of their collective bargaining agreements or any contract offer submitted by an employer. Many unions already provide some type of employee ratification, but some do not, and of those that do have ratification procedures, most typically do not provide for a secret-ballot vote. Where there are no ratification procedures, union officials have free reign to trade direct employee benefits, such as wage increases, for items like paid time off for union officials or free office space, which benefit the union as an institutionbut not individual employees.
All bargaining unit employees, including both union and nonunion members, should be entitled to a secret-ballot vote to accept or reject collective bargaining agreement or employer contract proposals that involve vital issues that will determine wages, benefits, and working conditions. Federal and Michigan collective bargaining laws should be amended to ensure direct employee decision-making in these most vital and personal economic concerns.