Picketline blog has text and great pictures of Ashe Tuesday.
And Pres. Shalala has just sent out a message to the university community. If you don’t think about it too much it is a great piece of persuasive writing but contains a huge logical fallacy. And a bit of what I fear may be wishful thinking.
Let’s start with the (accurate) set-up
Basically, [the Ashe students] want the university to tell one of our contractors, UNICCO, to accept cards that the union, SEIU, has had UNICCO employees sign requesting union recognition. The union argues that collecting signatures as an indication of what the employees want is better and fairer than a secret, federal government (National Labor Relations Board) supervised vote. The contractor, UNICCO, has called for the secret ballot procedure supervised by the NLRB (it should be noted that recognizing a union on the basis of cards is optional under the law; recognizing a union under a secret ballot election is mandated by the law).
Now here’s the fallacious bit:
The students who sat in yesterday support the SEIU position. They wanted the university to share their view. They believe the NLRB process takes too long and is flawed. As I explained to them, we are neutral on the process the union and the contractor need to work that out. However, when pushed on why we couldn’t just choose to support the card-signing system, I pointed out that the university simply could never take a position against a secret ballot procedure supervised by a federal government agency. Secret ballots are at the heart of our democratic system. In fact, many of the UNICCO employees in our community came to this country precisely because of our free (and secret ballot) elections.
I hope very much that this is just PR and not what Pres. Shalala actually believes. Because it’s odd.
There is no reason in the world why the University couldn’t if it chose take a position that a process run by the Bush administration has an anti-union bias. But leave that aside. Suppose both processes are in fact formally fair, but that they have different psychological biases: card-check provides a greater chance one-on-persuasion; ballot, which takes place at a defined time, allows the best chance for the employer to maximize its inducements and threats so that they are at their peak effectiveness at the moment of the vote. In that world, there are no “neutrals”.
But wait. It gets stranger. President Shalala thinks that there’s some magic “third way” heretofore unknown to labor lawyers, and that we here at UM are going to invent it:
I suggested last night that everyone sit down and see if they can find a third option that is free from intimidation. We need a fair democratic process for the employees of UNICCO to decide whether or not they want SEIU to represent them, free from intimidation or coercion from either side, or concern about their job stability. That discussion will begin Friday at noon.
As I’ve said before, labor law is way outside my areas of even minimal competence. But I do read the newspapers. And if there was a third way beside polling people asynchronously (card check) and polling people synchronously (ballot), identifying it would seem to me to be something of a feat.