"Card-check recognition" would be required if amendments to the National Labor Relations Act introduced by Senator Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) are successful. The amendments, which would require employers to recognize a union if a majority of employees signed authorization cards or petitions, contains several of the more onerous provisions that were part of the "labor law reform" in the late 1970s that very nearly succeeded. In support of the proposed amendments, Schumer pointed to the decline in union representation, from 20 percent of the work force in 1983 to the current 13.2 percent. The Democrat presidential candidates have all announced support for card-check recognition, and Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts was the first to specifically support Schumer’s bill.
Card-check recognition and negotiations have created 3,100 new members of the United Autoworkers who are employed by Freightliner LLC, a unit of Daimler-Chrysler. The three-year agreements made in December and running through March 2007 provide an $800 signing bonus, elimination of employee contributions toward health insurance premiums and continuation of company pension benefits as employees are moved into a new UAW-Freightliner retirement plan. Wage increases over the three-year term will be $1.25 - $1.40, with an extra 25¢ the second and third year for skilled trades.
The present NLRB rule on election objections based on the conduct of third parties may be changing soon. Currently, an election result may be challenged based on the conduct of a person or entity who is an agent of neither the employer nor the union if the third party created "a general atmosphere of fear and reprisal that made a fair election impossible." The Board issued a decision on the last day of 2003 that indicates the standard for asserting this type of challenge may soon become easier. Although the Board upheld the election, which the employer lost by four votes, the two Republican members said in their concurrences that they would change the rule to allow a challenge if the third party’s conduct affected only "a determinative number of voters." In this case, the evidence showed that the third party conduct affected only one eligible voter.
Former management attorney Ronald E. Meisburg has been appointed a new Republican member of the NLRB, replacing former member Acosta, who resigned in August. The recess appointment made while the Senate was not in session means that Meisburg can serve until the Senate adjourns its last session in 2004. If the Senate confirms his appointment when it resumes, his term will expire August 27, 2008.
Unions are continuing to win more elections, according to NLRB data analyzed by BNA PLUS, the research division of the Bureau of National Affairs. The win rate has increased from 48.2% in 1996 to 56.5% in 2002, and to 57.3% in the first six months of 2003.
The Teamsters Union continues to reign as the most active of all AFL-CIO Unions in NLRB election petitions and elections. The Union participates in more than three times the elections of its closest rival, and is also far and away the leader in strikes, with almost 100 occurring between July 1, 2002, and June 30, 2003. Its membership has held steady at approximately 1.4 million, despite a decline in members from the transportation industry. It also leads in the number of decertifications held and lost. President Hoffa continues to take steps designed to end the consent decree of 1989, which resulted from widespread corruption that was illegal under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.
Union objections to NLRB elections won by employers are commonly upheld where the employer has withheld bonus payments or has threatened to do so. Distribution center workers were informed by a circular shortly before the election that the manager did not know "whether the workers would still be eligible for bonuses if the union won" and that unionized workers at other company facilities did not participate in such a program. Two Board members found that these statements constituted a threat that employees would be precluded from obtaining their next bonus, scheduled to be paid soon after the election.