Cards on the Table

The national solid waste management association (NSWMA) has voiced its strong opposition to legislation that it says will compromise workers' rights to a federally supervised secret ballot election when deciding whether or not to join a union. The Employee Free Choice Act (H.R. 800), introduced in February by U.S. Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., would replace secret ballot elections overseen by the National Labor Relations Board with a more informal process called “card check,” which requires only that a majority of workers sign an authorization card. Since the cards must be turned in to union organizers, the identities of those who signed or refused to sign would be made public, which NSWMA contends leaves these individuals vulnerable to intimidation from union bosses, management or both.

“Secret ballot elections are a cornerstone of the democratic process,” said NSWMA President and CEO Bruce Parker in a press release. “Workers deserve the right to make decisions free of any outside intimidation, whether from the union or management.”

Supporters of the bill, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, argue that under the current system, employers are just as likely to pressure workers in the run up to elections. Moreover, many labor leaders see the legislation as a means to revive fading unions, whose membership has steadily declined from 20.1 percent of salaried workers in 1983 to 12 percent in 2006, according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bill would also institute stronger penalties for labor law violations and provide for third-party mediation in the creation of a labor contract.

Despite passing the House, the bill faces strong opposition in the Senate and a veto threat from President Bush.