Public Funds Shouldn’t Bankroll Union Coercion
By F. Vincent Vernuccio
Elections are fundamental to who we are as Americas. Every two years, we head to the polls to cast a ballot for our elected officials. We aren’t required to reveal how we voted; rather, we make our decision privately. This reduces the potential for bullying and intimidation, making our elections free and fair. This is important, because these elections have serious consequences.
But political ballots aren’t the only votes Tennesseans cast that have a lasting impact.
In workplaces across the state, employees must decide whether they want union representation. The stakes are high. Bringing a union into the workplace triggers a series of decisions and policies that can affect workers for generations.
Unlike our political votes, however, these decisions aren’t always private. Through a system called card check, union organizers are tasked with collecting enough signatures – publicly – to organize the workplace. The approach lends itself to bullying, intimidation and coercion. Workers can be harassed through repeated phone calls. They may even receive multiple unwanted visits at home.
These tactics can be overwhelming. One employee testified, “It wasn’t enough that employees were being harassed at work, but now they are receiving phone calls at home. The union’s organizers refuse to take ‘no’ for an answer. The only way, it seems, to stop the badgering and pressure is to sign the card.”
In another instance, an employee was told to sign the card or risk the union coming to “get her children” and “slash her car tires.”
Even more galling, taxpayer dollars can be used to perpetuate these tactics. Card check occurs in some Tennessee workplaces that receive taxpayer-funded state economic incentives.
Last year, Tennesseans voted overwhelmingly to support a right-to-work constitutional amendment, ensuring that workers can’t be fired for not joining or paying a union. Polling shows that Tennessee residents support private-ballot protections by a similar margin.
Tennessee legislators should stand up for taxpayers and workers. They can make sure that Tennesseans’ tax dollars aren’t used to support companies that allow card check in their facilities. And by doing so, they can prevent Tennesseans from being subjected to the bullying, threats and coercion that take place in union-controlled workplaces elsewhere in the country.
Vincent Vernuccio is a senior labor policy adviser for Workers for Opportunity and president of Institute for the American Worker. He is the author of Protecting the Secret Ballot: The Dangers of Union Card Check.