Job Killer Bill Is Back Door Approach to Card Check in California

Allan Zaremberg
President and CEO of the California Chamber of Commerce

One has to look no further than Senate Bill 1474 (Steinberg; D-Sacramento) to grasp why each year the California Chamber of Commerce finds it necessary to issue our annual "job killers" list of legislation that threatens our state’s business climate.

A notable bill on this year’s list is SB 1474, a dangerous proposal that does many things but, most importantly, seeks to expand unionization by creating a back door for "card check" in California.

Under a recently amended version of this bill that is awaiting action by the Governor, the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB) has the power to take a card signed by an employee with the purpose of merely holding an election and creating a certification for the union.  Employees sign authorization cards for a number of reasons including to call for an election, to stop a union organizer from continuing to pester them for their cards or because they were tricked by misrepresentation as to the consequence of signing a card.  Ultimately, under the process outlined in SB 1474, the ALRB can convert these signatures into a card check election without the employee’s knowledge.  The union never has to disclose to the employee that the result of their signature appearing on this card for another purpose ended up generating a vote for unionization.  This is unfair to the employee. 

While this bill is limited to California agriculture, make no mistake about its impact.  This legislation is a strategic play to unionize more workers nationwide.   It is a Trojan horse for big labor to establish the legitimacy of card check in all types of businesses in every state.  This national assault on private sector jobs and cherished American values has been raging for the past several years, including at the federal level where there has been a strong push to force card check on all employers.

This is why California employers are so firmly united in opposition to SB 1474. There is no difference or diminished importance because this California bill deals with agricultural employers and the secret ballot for their employees. Ultimately, this act works to hurt all California’s businesses by driving up costs and making employers less competitive in a global marketplace.

And, as if the economic realities of this bill aren’t bad enough, SB 1474 would end the sanctity of secret ballot elections.  Even the pro-union stalwart and liberal Democratic icon George McGovern has been vocal in his opposition to card check.

In 2008, McGovern voiced his concerns in an enduring commentary piece that ran in the Wall Street Journal when card-check legislation first surfaced on Capitol Hill:

"As a longtime friend of labor unions, I must raise my voice against pending legislation I see as a disturbing and undemocratic overreach not in the interest of either management or labor . . . The legislation is called the Employee Free Choice Act, and I am sad to say it runs counter to ideals that were once at the core of the labor movement. Instead of providing a voice for the unheard, EFCA risks silencing those who would speak . . . We [Democrats] cannot be a party that strips working Americans of the right to a secret-ballot election. We are the party that has always defended the rights of the working class. To fail to ensure the right to vote free of intimidation and coercion from all sides would be a betrayal of what we have always championed."

The same can very easily be said about SB 1474.

Labor unions in California are experiencing a decline in membership.  Bolstering their membership should occur because workers see a need, not by adultering the election process.  Undermining the secret-ballot process sends the wrong message to new or growing businesses that create much needed jobs for California workers.

California labor’s previous attempts to ramrod card check have repeatedly failed, with the Governor vetoing these types of bills the past two years.  Governor Schwarzenegger understands the importance of protecting the California job climate, now more than ever, and I doubt he will be tricked by labor’s latest attempt to expand unionization by getting the ball rolling in our state.  

SB 1474 will hurt California’s competitiveness and kill jobs.  It will disenfranchise workers and limit free speech.  It threatens to expand unionization well beyond agriculture and well beyond California’s borders.  This job killing legislation that also undermines precious freedoms must be vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger because the stakes are simply too high. 

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