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Labor, Management At Odds On 'Card Check' Unionizing

Publication Date: 
May 03, 2009
Memphis Commercial Appeal
Don Wade

Professor William B. Gould IV is quoted extensively by the Memphis Commercial Appeal in an article about the Employee Free Choice Act:

Bill Gould was at the beginning of his term as chairman of the National Labor Relations Board. And what he witnessed then in the arena of pro sports, he says, looks more than a little like what he sees in the country's current debate over the so-called Employee Free Choice Act.


"There's an awful lot of rhetoric and propaganda from both sides," said Gould, now an emeritus professor of law at Stanford Law School, and who served as the NLRB chairman through 1998.


Gould prefers a longer and broader view of the issue. He says the National Labor Reform Act, initially adopted in 1935 as the Wagner Act, "has long been badly in need of reform to allow workers to select bargaining representatives and to negotiate collectively with employers, if they choose to do so.

"There are many reasons for labor's decline," Gould added, and it's down to 12.1 percent nationally, 7.3 percent in the private sector. "The law just happens to be one, and it's a subordinate factor."


Backers of EFCA often argue that employers intentionally use delay tactics and do not bargain in good faith. Gould tends to agree, saying, "The system is broken because of delays, and justice delayed is justice denied."

But he opposes card check.

"In essence," he said, "the bill wants to substitute for employer intimidation with a union's peer pressure to sign cards."


Gould says there is also a history of delays coming because of the action -- or inaction -- of the NLRB itself.

"Cases go into a black hole because something in the case is sensitive to a particular board member and his or her chance for reappointment," Gould said.

Still, Gould said, "There are portions of the Employee Free Choice Act that make sense, such as increasing fines and damages for violations of the law by employers in organizing situations."

Gould also favors allowing unions access to company property for five to 10 days campaigning as part of "expedited elections."

He has trouble with what amounts to "automatic arbitration" if a contract is not reached after 90 days.


Ultimately, Gould wonders if either management or labor will triumph.

"A lot of these company lawyers fighting this thing are rubbing their hands gleefully," he said, "because if this thing goes through, there's going to be a lot of litigation."