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Study: Majority Sign-Up Doesn't Lead to Coercion

Jeremy Sprinkle
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(Picture) Employee Free Choice ActA 'total absence of any employee or union abuse' for Illinois workers

The University of Illinois published results of a study authored by Robert Bruno, a professor of labor and employment policy, on Illinois' Majority Interest Petition (MIP) process, which grants public employees in that state the option to form a union using majority sign-up. The findings are not good news for corporate spin masters who repeatedly (and falsely) claim majority sign-up exposes workers to coercion:

"The results of the study unambiguously revealed that the majority sign-up provision was used extensively without hint of union or employer abuse.

"In brief, from 2003-2009, 21,197 public sector workers employed in state, county, municipal and educational institutions voluntarily joined a union. Most importantly, contrary to business claims, in nearly eight hundred petition cases, there was not a single confirmed incidence of union coercion." [emphasis added]

The Employee Free Choice Act would guarantee workers nationwide the right to choose majority sign-up when deciding on union representation. Majority sign-up has been available for decades, but under current law, employers can veto workers' choice and force an election.

Big Business' claims that allowing workers to decide for themselves how to form a union would open the door to coercion and intimidation have no basis in fact:

"While the extensive use of MIP and their representativeness of the state"s workforce are impressive, the most dramatic outcome of the provision"s administration is the total absence of any employee or union abuse."

In the over 1,000 times Illinois workers invoked majority sign-up since given the right in 2003, there was only one allegation of coercion, which when investigated by the state Labor Relations Board was found to be groundless. Even when the process didn't lead to certification of the union, "In no case was a petition withdrawn or dismissed because of union coercion," the study found.

Meanwhile employer abuse of labor law is rampant

Since the National Labor Relations Act established the majority sign-up process for forming unions in 1935, there have been 42 cases of union misconduct in the signing of authorization cards.

In 2007 alone, 29,559 workers received back pay from employers in cases alleging illegal firings for trying to form a union, according to reports by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which adjudicates such cases.

This reality bears repeating. Cases of union misconduct in 75 years of majority sign-up: 42. Cases of illegal employer firings of workers trying to form a union in just one year: 29,559.

While Big Business wants Congress to focus on what they say could happen with a majority sign-up process that the boss can no longer veto, our elected representatives (and the media) should focus on reality. Majority sign-up works:

"Illinois has provided a mechanism for over 20,000 public sectors workers to express their interest in becoming union members. The process has worked without systematic or episodic employer or union abuse. Illinois' majority sign-up provision, like many other state laws across the country, is very similar to the proposed federal Employee Free Choice Act. As the debate over the national legislation continues, it is important for policy makers to have access to hard data detailing the impact of a majority sign-up provision. States like Illinois can make a valuable contribution to the pursuit of an informed judgment about labor law reform."

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