“Vegas Style” Union Organizing

The Las Vegas Sun has an interesting overview of the stakes and implications of enacting the Card Check Scam Bill.

As the Sun reported, passage of the bill “. . . would for the first time in 60 years, allow workers to organize without putting the issue to a secret-ballot vote.”

The legislation also has a provision that would:

. . . stiffen penalties for employers who commit unfair labor practices during an organizing drive and impose binding arbitration in bargaining cases in which the sides cannot agree.

Taken together, the changes would shake the foundations of modern labor law and likely usher in the largest unionization drive since the passage of the National Labor Relations Act in 1935. Chicago-based Seyfarth Shaw LLP, a leading labor relations law firm, held a Web seminar last month outlining the implications of the bill . . . .

As Amanda Sonneborn, a lawyer with the firm, put it: “. . . you read it and weep.”

This isn’t speculation by Sonneborn. She points to Illinois as an example of the bill’s “cascading effect.”

The state passed mandatory card check in 2003. As a result, union density soared, she said. The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, for instance, doubled its number of bargaining units in four years, Sonneborn said.

In Las Vegas, the Culinary Union has tripled its membership over the past 20 years primarily through negotiating voluntary card check agreements with casino companies. The union added 10,000 members from 2002 to 2005 alone — and will add another 6,000 when MGM Mirage’s CityCenter opens in 2009.

In Canada, the effect also has been striking. Thirty-two percent of the country’s workers belong to a union, a density not seen in the United States since the American labor movement’s pinnacle in 1955. Only 12 percent of American workers today belong to a union. Labor benefits from mandatory card check laws in some Canadian provinces. Alberta sports the lowest union density of those places — a whopping 24 percent.

. . . Under the card check bill, employers would face fines for unfair labor practices of up to $20,000 per violation.