Thursday, February 26, 2009


Hawaii may beat Washington with a card check law

by Larry Geller

Hawaii Business Journal reported today that SB1621 is advancing in the Senate:

The Senate Committee on Judiciary and Government Operations on Thursday passed Senate Bill 1621, which essentially removes the use of traditional secret-ballot elections by allowing employees to sign cards indicating they’d like to organize under a labor union. If a majority of a company’s workers sign the cards, the union is automatically recognized and free to bargain with management.

The measure also mandates binding arbitration in collective bargaining and removes private-property rights for business owners if the unions want to picket on sidewalks and near entry ways of their establishments. It also establishes legal immunity for unions in actions relating to collective bargaining.

The state Legislature passed a version of the card-check bill last year only to be vetoed by Gov. Linda Lingle.

Its federal counterpart, the Employee Free Choice Act, already has garnered support from President Barack Obama and a Democratic-controlled Congress.

Predictably, Republican Sen. Sam Slom was the lone no vote on the committee (Slom is at present one of only two Republicans left standing in the Senate, which is not a good situation, but on the other hand, perhaps his vote on this issue is illustrative of why Hawaii Republicans are losing ground).

The article describes the provisions of the bill, but don’t overlook the first comment appended to the article. It’s long, beginning with what appears to be a quotation from a book:

Although its collapse has dominated recent media coverage, the financial sector is not the only segment of the U.S. economy running into serious trouble. The institutions that govern the labor market have also failed, producing the unusual and unhealthy situation in which hourly compensation for American workers has stagnated even as their productivity soared. Indeed, from 2000 to 2007, the income of the median working-age household fell by $2,000- an unprecedented decline. In that time, virtually all of the nation's economic growth went to a small number of wealthy Americans. An important reason for the shift from broadly-shared prosperity to growing inequality is the erosion of workers' ability to form unions and bargain collectively.

Millions of American workers - more than half of non-managers - have said they want a union at their work place. Yet only 7.5% of private sector workers are now represented by a union. And in all of 2007, fewer than 60,000 workers won union status through government-sanctioned elections. What explains this disconnect? The problem is that the election process overseen by the National Labor Relations Board has become drawn out and acrimonious, with management campaigning fiercely to deter unionization, sometimes to the extent of violating labor laws. Union sympathizers are routinely threatened or even fired, and they have little effective recourse under the law. Even when workers overcome this pressure and vote for a union, they are unable to obtain contracts one-third of the time due to management resistance. To remedy this situation, the Congress is considering the Employee Free Choice Act.

Business cannot prosper unless employees do as well. Americans have never been content to be serfs, slaves or sharecroppers. Hawaii’s proposed legislation is ahead of and in tune with the national sentiment, and so this bill will probably pass.

Perhaps the Legislature will see the benefit to our economy and override Gov. Lingle’s inevitable veto. Meanwhile, submitting testimony is easy, you can support this bill if you wish from the comfort of your computer chair.



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