Labor or Unions

What Does Labor Want?

Labor leader Samuel Gompers was once asked, ‘What does labor want?’

He responded:

“We want more schoolhouses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more constant work and less crime; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge; in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures, to make manhood more noble, womanhood more beautiful and childhood more happy and bright. These in brief are the primary demands made by the Trade Unions in the name of labor. These are the demands made by labor upon modern society and in their consideration is involved the fate of civilization.”

Samuel Gompers

One of the demands that labor will have of the next administration is a union recognition process known as ‘card check’.

A union certification starts with interested employees circulating union authorization cards. Signing a card indicates that an employee is interested in having union representation. If enough employees sign cards the union may petition the National Labor Relations Board, or other appropriate authority, to hold a union representation election.

The employer can opt to certify the union without an election through the card check certification process. Card check involves a mutually agreed-upon third party, such as a Federal Mediator, who verifies the authorization cards. If a majority of employees indicate that they want to be represented by the union, then the union is recognized as the exclusive bargaining representative for the employees. The employer and union then begin good-faith collective bargaining.

The problem with union certification elections is when the employer engages in intimidation tactics. Some employers have fired workers for engaging in union activities. Some have threatened to relocate or close the business if workers elect a union. Others have used union-busting consulting firms for anti-union campaigns. Some employers promise benefits to those employees who will oppose unionization efforts.

The Employee Free Choice Act, which would have made card check the law of the land, was introduced in the 110th Congress. The legislation would have amended the National Labor Relations Act so that if fifty percent plus one employee signed an authorization card, the union would be certified.

After certification, a 130-day period of contract negotiations would either result in a contract or a federal arbitration board would impose a two-year contract that would be binding on both labor and management.

On June 26, 2007, the Employee Free Choice Act bill failed to pass during the 110th United States Congress. Efforts in subsequent years have also failed to pass the bill.

Organized labor will argue that union membership provides:

  • better wages and benefits:
  • protection from workplace discrimination;
  • promote equal treatment by reducing race and gender pay gaps;
  • establishing job safety standards;
  • communities around the workplace will benefit through stronger tax bases

Card check legislation will bring about these positive outcomes and reduce worker intimidation tactics by employers. If the 2020 election brings a Democratic president and Senate, organized labor will renew their efforts to pass card check legislation.

Thanks and a tip of the hat to Fibonacci Blue for the image”Rally to Save the American Dream”. See more of Fibonacci Blue’s art at

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