Sheldon Richman has an excellent article up at FEE on the Employee Free Choice Act: "Labor's Right to a Free Market
The article makes it pretty clear, for any of the usual suspects tempted to pigeonhole this as a "statist unions vs. libertarian employers" morality play, that there is no libertarian dog in this fight. Note well: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers don't want to repeal the federal role in certifying unions under Wagner. Oh, No
! After all, that would mean doing away with Taft-Hartley as well, with its prohibitions on sympathy and boycott strikes. No, what organized capital wants is a continuation of the federal role in certifying unions--but according to the bosses' rules. As the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (a U.S. C of C/NAM front) says in its propaganda, they're "fighting to protect the right to a federally supervised private ballot."
My preference is to get rid of Wagner, and Taft-Hartley, and the right-to-work laws, and the railway and other transport worker labor relations acts, all at once. But as I've said before, if we're simply choosing between forms of statism, I prefer the form of statism that is least onerous to me. If my only choices are between getting a jackboot in my face under the neoliberal version of statism favored by Reagan and Thatcher, and getting smothered with paternalism in the brave new world of social democracy, I'll take the latter any day. Old-style corporate liberalism and new-style neoliberalism represent two wings of organized capital. The corporate liberals are like a kindly farmer who thinks he can get more work out of his livestock in the long run by taking good care of them. The neoliberals, on the other hand, are like a farmer who thinks he'll come out ahead by working his livestock to death and then replacing them. If I'm going to be livestock, I know which farmer I'd prefer to live under.
So if the forces of organized capital are simply arguing about what form federal certification of unions will take, how the federally supervised votes will be counted, it seems to me only logical to use the method whose practical effects are most genuinely representative. And politicians and industry lobbyists who claim, with a straight face, that their main objective in maintaining the Wagner regime in its present form against the EFCA is to protect
workers from intimidation, are off the high end of the dial on my disingenuousness meter. I have no doubt that pro-union intimidation takes place in certification votes, and on a significant scale. But it's a man-bites-dog story when intimidation doesn't
take place on the employers' side. Firing organizers, and otherwise using organized, mass intimidation as a deliberate tactic, is the main weapon in the union-busters' arsenal, widely promoted by an entire industry of corporate "labor consultants."
In my own first-hand experience, I've heard an awful lot of worker grousing in an awful lot of workplaces, in response to stagnant wages, downsizing, and speedups. And I've heard countless people express the idle wish for a union, coupled with a furtive glance and a warning that openly talking about such things is the fastest way to get fired and blacklisted. In all that time, I've never once heard anyone expressing fear of the "union bosses"--but I've sure as hell heard plenty in terror of the regular
Make no mistake: the forces of organized capital want to keep federal certification of unions, but with the old system of balloting, because it makes it easier
to intimidate workers. If they say otherwise, they're liars. According to David M. Gordon, in Fat and Mean
, "frustrated union members" (i.e., those who would join a union if they could) around 30% percent of the U.S. labor force; perhaps not coincidentally, this is not only the percentage of U.S. workers who belonged to unions in their heyday, but the percentage who belong to Canada, which operates on something similar to the card check system.
So, employers, when you're ready to eliminate statism from labor relations altogether, come back and we'll talk. But so long as you're simply proposing a form of statism that's rigged in your interest and against mine, I think I'll take my statism the other way around, thank you.