Another Victory for Secret Ballots Over Card Check

Card check is the process by which union representatives collect signatures from employees indicating they want a union in their workplace. In some places if the union gets more than 50% of the proposed bargaining unit to sign, management must recognize and negotiate with the union.

As you can imagine, unions really like card check because it allows no avenue for organized opposition and can often be accomplished under the radar. But if the rules require a secret ballot election, surprises do occur. Case in point: Harvard University.

Last February the United Auto Workers submitted authorization cards from approximately 60 percent of the graduate student teaching and research assistants. The union had every reason to believe it would win a vote, especially since UAW had just completed a successful election at Columbia University last month.

But when the ballots were counted, union opponents had garnered 53.4% of the vote.

What happened? John Froberg, a graduate student in molecular biology who said he voted against unionization, had an idea.

[Organizers] were extremely aggressive about getting you to sign the authorization card. They didn’t necessarily explain what the authorization card was, or what the union was. And they kept coming around multiple times…so I think a lot of people were like: “Hey, I’ll sign this thing, and so you’ll stop coming after me.”

This kind of result isn’t unheard of, and demonstrates how things can change in the privacy of the voting booth – as if the entire country hasn’t already learned that lesson.