Revised and updated March 6, 2009
Both sides in the card-check debate say they seek to protect
workers' freedom to decide whether to join a union. Card check
supporters argue that union organizing elections are "intensely
coercive" and that Congress should replace private ballots with
publicly signed cards to protect workers' choice. Opponents argue that a
worker's free choice is best protected by the privacy of the voting
booth. Siding with the card check opponents, a large majority of
workers want to keep their choice of whether to join a union
private and believe that the current organizing elections system is
fair. Most Americans, and most union members, oppose replacing
private-ballot elections with card checks.
Union Members Say the Current System is
Labor activists often argue that the private-ballot elections
that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) oversees are unfair.
In the words of one union activist, the elections "look more like
the discredited practices of rogue regimes abroad than like
anything we would call American." But the vast majority
of union members disagree. According to a Zogby poll, 71 percent of
union members believe that the current private-ballot process is
fair, versus only 13 percent who disagree. A recent poll
conducted by McLaughlin & Associates found that fully 74
percent of union members favor keeping the current system in place
over replacing it with one that provides less privacy.
Union members simply disagree with activists' claims of
widespread employer abuse during organizing drives. They are
supported by the results of government investigations into these
allegations. The NLRB found that employers illegally fired workers
for supporting a union in 2.7 percent of organizing election
campaigns. Employer abuses are the rare exception, not
the norm, in organizing elections. The facts and the knowledge of
union members themselves demonstrate the fairness of private
Most Non-Union Workers Do Not Want To Join
Labor activists also frequently argue that tens of millions of
American workers would join a union if not for employer
intimidation. They contend that the low level of
unionization in the United States proves that elections do not
reflect workers' free choice. But polls of workers show that the
vast majority of non-union workers want to stay that way. By more
than a 6-to-1 margin-82 to 13 percent-nonunion workers say that
they do not want their job to be unionized. Because a union must
win the support of a majority of workers in a company to win
recognition, the fact that relatively few workers belong to a union
is thus unsurprising.
Workers Value Their Privacy
Not only do workers disagree with claims of employer abuses, but
they believe that they should have the right to keep their decision
to join or not join a union private. While some workers gladly
express their opinion on unionization, others want to avoid
pressure from co-workers, union organizers, and supervisors and do
not want to reveal their choice. The vast majority of Americans
also believe that workers should have the choice to keep their
opinions on unionizations private. Fully 86 percent of Americans
believe that a worker's ultimate choice should be kept private and
not made public information.
Workers and Union Members Oppose Card Check
Since workers believe that the current private balloting system
is fair and value their privacy, it is not surprising that a large
majority of workers also opposes any effort to replace organizing
elections with publicly signed cards. A recent McLaughlin poll
indicates that 74 percent of Americans oppose card check
legislation that would end private-ballot elections. Union
members agree just as strongly: 74 percent also oppose card-check
legislation. The very employees that union activists
claim to speak for oppose replacing private-ballot elections with
Labor activists argue that card check is needed to protect
workers' free choice as to whether to join a union. But workers
themselves disagree. Overwhelming majorities of both union and
non-union workers oppose the card-check system. Contrary to
anecdotal stories of employer abuses, most union members believe
the current election system is fair. Workers do not want the
government to force them to reveal their choices to anyone and want
the right to keep their votes private. Unrepresentative anecdotes
from labor activists are not enough to counter the fact that
workers choose private-ballot organizing elections, not card
is Bradley Fellow in Labor Policy in the Center for Data
Analysis at The Heritage Foundation.
Testimony of Nancy Schiffer, AFL-CIO
Associate General Counsel, before the Subcommittee on Health,
Employment, Labor, and Pensions, House Committee on Education and
Labor, U.S. House of Representatives, February 8, 2007, at www.aflcio.org/joinaunion/voiceatwork/efca/upload/EF
Testimony of Dr. Gordon Lafer before the
Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions, Committee
on Education and Labor, U.S. House of Representatives, February 8,
2007, at www.aflcio.org/joinaunio
data come from a Zogby International poll of 703 union members
conducted in June 2004 for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy,
with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percent. Joseph Lehman,
"Union Members' Attitudes Towards Their Unions' Performance,"
Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Policy Brief S2004-05, September
1, 2004, at www.mackinac.org/archives/2004/s2004-05.pdf.
McLaughlin & Associates, "American
Voters Reject the Employee Free Choice Act," at http://myprivateballot.com/fs/resource:id/x1wr5np68dwc8g/x
q4zyrssrp99gm?_c=xs3xwoi63ehbt3 (March 6, 2009).
Justin Wilson, "Union Math, Union Myths," Center for Union Facts,
June 2007, at www.unionfacts.com/downloads/Union_Math_Union_Myths.pdf.
Testimony of Nancy Schiffer, AFL-CIO
Associate General Counsel.
for Union Facts, "Americans Overwhelmingly Reject Unionization,"
February 4, 2009, at http://server1.laborpains.org/wp-
(March 6, 2009).
McLaughlin and Associates, "American Voters Reject the Employee
Free Choice Act," at http://myprivateballot.com/fs/resource:id/x1wr5np68dw
c8g/xq4zyrssrp99gm?_c=xs3xwoi63ehbt3 (March 6, 2009).
Joseph Lehman, "Union Members' Attitudes
Towards Their Unions' Performance."