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February 25, 2005

How Companies Fight Union Votes

Here's the odd thing about union elections. Almost no union applies to the NLRB for an election without a majority of workers signing cards wanting the union brought it. Yet unions, by the time the election happens, often lose the vote. But the key words are "by the time the election happens", since between signing the cards and holding the vote, the company gets to change the electorate. Take the vote being held today in Denver on whether a Tire & Lube Express department at Wal-Mart will unionize. Last November, nine of the department's seventeen workers signed cards asking for a union. Between then and today's vote:

two have left to attend college and a third was fired. As many as six new workers were brought in...Those workers could skew the vote in favor of the retail giant.
With a third of the potential voters hand-picked by Wal-Mart since November with this vote in mind, it's a bit as if an incumbent politician could randomly import massive numbers of new voters of his choosing each election. No incumbent would ever lose office in such a system and it would be considered a democratic farce.

Yet that's our American union election system.

Update: BTW there's a lovely piece in Slate slamming the lies by Wal-Mart executives that their "average" wages are $10 per hour-- that is, if you factor in the pay of top executives who make as much as 900 times more than the clearks in the stores.

Update: The official election results show that the Colorado workers rejected unionization, 17-1. So somehow, that workforce went from nine workers signing cards asking for a union to only one voting for it. Given that Wal-Mart has just announced that it will shut down a store in Quebec after it voted to unionize, the result is unsurprising.

Posted by Nathan at February 25, 2005 09:36 AM