Steinberg Pushes 'Card Check' Bill

MAR. 10, 2011

By KATY GRIMES

If the third time’s a charm, then Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg can look forward to passing a new “card check” bill. The bill is described as “the alternative electoral method for choosing collective bargaining representatives.”

But the bill could go down for the count, as in a boxing match.

Under “card check,” instead of voting for or against union representation in private, workers would be asked to sign union cards in front of organizers and colleagues, potentially subjecting them to harassment or intimidation. Once a majority of employees has signed cards, the union is immediately recognized.

Opponents of “card check” say it would take away numerous rights and protections currently afforded to workers at companies and businesses where unions are actively seeking to organize.

At a hearing Wednesday in the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee, Steinberg’s third attempt at “card check” legislation was presented.

The bill has very similar language to two previous “card check” bills, one of which was authored several years ago by former Sen. Carol Migden (SB 180). Then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed Migden’s bill. But after she termed out of office, he appointed her to the Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB).

Steinberg’s newest bill states that the purpose is to give agricultural employees “an alternative electoral method for choosing their collective bargaining representative, the majority signup election.”

Limiting Employee Rights

But opponents say that this particular bill limits employees’ right to vote using a secret ballot, as well as unfairly penalizing employers for potential violations during union organizing. And opponents are critical that unions are not penalized under this bill for the same type of potential violations during organizing.

Steinberg did not appear at the committee hearing, and instead sent representative Charles Wright in his place. “SB 104 does not eliminate the secret ballot — it just adds the new option to the secret ballot process,” Wright said.

Salinas Democratic Assemblyman Luis Alejo appeared in support of Steinberg’s bill, and said he was there “on behalf of the hard working men and women who work in the fields of California.”
 Alejo said farms in his district produce more fruits and vegetables than anywhere else in the country. With him at the hearing, Alejo had more than 25 farm workers in support of the bill.

The bill has the support of more than 20 unions and labor organizations, including the California Labor Federation, the Teamsters, the United Nurses Association and the AFL-CIO.

In addition to vetoing Migden’s bill, Schwarzenegger vetoed two similar bills. He said in one veto message, “This process fundamentally alters an employee’s right to a secret ballot election that allows the employee to choose, in the privacy of the voting booth without coercion or manipulation, whether or not to be represented… I cannot support this alteration of the secret ballot process.”

However, supporters were very confident that new Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, will not veto Steinberg’s bill.

Farmer Opposition

Opposition to the bill came primarily from farm and agricultural growers’ associations.
 “The characterization of this bill as an alternative to the secret ballot is an illusion,” said Barry Bedwell, president of the California Grape and Tree Fruit League. Bedwell said the bill unfairly imposes hefty penalties against employers for potential intimidation, “but has no mention in it about intimidation from the unions.”

Bedwell said that if legislators were really interested in addressing intimidation, “why isn’t current law addressing intimidation, instead of taking away the right of the secret ballot?” 
Bedwell added after the hearing that his association was concerned that passage of the bill would be “a wholesale license for union intimidation.”

Bill Little, another opponent of the bill with the California Farm Bureau, said his organization represents 75,000 farm families. Little said that farm bureau members employ more than 175,000 people in the state, “and up to one in five jobs are dependent on what farming does.” Little pointed out that under SB 104, card check can be used to certify an election, but not to decertify. “We prefer a remedy with a supervised, secret ballot election,” he said.

Also registering opposition to SB 104, in addition to the farm and growers associations, were the Agricultural Council of California, the Wine Institute, the California Independent Grocers Association, tje California Chamber of Commerce, the California Hotel and Lodging Association, and the National Right to Work Committee.

The Senate committee voted to pass the bill. This was just the first hearing of the bill since its introduction in January. The Labor and Industrial Relations Committee analysis of the bill is here.

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  1. David from Oceanside
    David from Oceanside 10 March, 2011, 10:12

    More of the same. Democrats bent over by unions push laws which will restrict personal liberties.

    Democrats and Republicans alike will not rest until the state, through our wise rulers, controls every aspect of our lives. Since the Dems are bed partners with unions, union control of our lives is near the same thing.

    The unions cannot compete in a free market so they depend on needy politicians to enact laws giving unions unfair advantage.

    Reply this comment
  2. Tylerle13
    Tylerle13 10 March, 2011, 12:12

    Once again, unions neglecting their current members so they can just sign up more people, and collect more dues. They really dont care about the thousands of members who are out of work, they just care about building their war chest.

    If they pass card check, they are just legalizing Union Intimidation, which is the Unions favorite method of “getting things done”. Card Check & CARB will succeed in killing off the few thriving industries CA has left.

    Reply this comment
  3. CalWatchdog
    CalWatchdog Author 10 March, 2011, 21:45

    Another disturbing aspect of the bill is that an employee’s card can be signed up to one year before actually being used in a union election, nor is proof of employment required — a decision upheld by the ALRB.

    – Katy Grimes

    Reply this comment
  4. Tylerle13
    Tylerle13 11 March, 2011, 09:28

    Of course, they wouldnt pass a pro-union bill without leaving the door wide open for fraud, corruption, and outright abuse. Thats the way unions get things done.

    Reply this comment
  5. stevefromsacto
    stevefromsacto 14 March, 2011, 16:51

    “imtimidation, fraud, corruption, and outright abuse”. your anti-union b.s. is getting awfully old. Same old name calling with no facts. Time to come up with a new shtick, Tylerliar.

    Reply this comment
  6. Tylerle13
    Tylerle13 16 March, 2011, 14:04

    Please tell me steveo, how is it shtick if its true?

    Reply this comment

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