04.04.2011 2

UNITE HERE Sidesteps Challenge to Accept Secret Ballot Election

By Kevin Mooney – With a little help from the unelected fourth branch of government, union operatives with UNITE HERE have sidestepped a challenge from Hyatt Hotels Corp. to participate in a federally supervised secret ballot election. Although Congress thus far rejected legislation that would replace secret ballots with a “card check” system, this change could still be implemented administratively. That’s why UNITE HERE is holding out.

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), established with the passage of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935, is the independent federal agency responsible for the scheduling and execution of private-sector elections to establish or dissolve union bargaining units. The board is part of a larger mix of “progressive” changes made in the early 20th century that allowed for administrative agents to impose their policy preferences without congressional approval.

Thus far, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has rejected four petitions from hotels in California and Indiana asking for a straight up and down vote on unionization. Although it is unusual for an employer to ask for an election, this option has existed at the NLRB for 75 years.

https://dailytorch.com/wp-includes/js/tinymce/plugins/wordpress/img/trans.gifThe NLRB had scheduled hearings to review petitions for three of the four properties, but later cancelled those hearings when it became clear UNITE HERE was not asking for the election. The idea now is for the union to hide behind an NLRB procedure so it can sustain its corporate campaign and pressure Hyatt into accepting “card check” as a substitute for a secret ballot election.

The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA),” which provides for “card check,” has been a top legislative priority for union leaders but with Republicans now in control of the House it is unlikely to move. Even with Democrats in control of Congress and the White House in the first two years of the Obama administration, the legislation ran into stiff opposition.

“The lesson from this episode is clear: although unions couldn’t convince Congress to force card check on the American people, it remains their preferred method of organizing and they’ll do whatever they can to intimidate workers and employers into using it,” said Glenn Spencer executive director of the Workforce Freedom Initiative with the Chamber of Commerce. “It’s unfortunate that the NLRB doesn’t think that years of harassment and pressure tactics by unions should be enough to trigger a true test of workers’ wishes–a secret ballot election. The NLRB seems intent on throwing out precedent in many other areas, it’s time they take a fresh look here.”

Robb Webb, the chief human resources officer with Hyatt, suspects the NLRB would have had a much different reaction if UNITE HERE had asked for the election.

“Although our request for elections has been denied, we believe the NLRB would have looked upon the matter differently if the leaders of UniteHere had agreed to a federally supervised election as they have nearly 300 times over the past five years, he said.  “We urge UniteHere to reconsider their decision, so that each of our associates can exercise their right to be heard by casting a ballot.

Clearly, union bosses have not given up on the idea of undermining the use of secret ballots, especially in those circumstances where it clear that employees would prefer to remain free of organized labor.

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