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Unions See Good Shot At Winning Change In Federal Labor Law

Publication Date: 
January 11, 2009
Chicago Tribune
Mike Hughlett

Professor William B. Gould IV is quoted in the Chicago Tribune in a story about changes in labor law scheduled to be heard by Congress. The Chicago Tribune writes:

As Congress convened last week, organized labor was looking at perhaps its best shot in ages at successfully pushing for sweeping changes in federal labor law.

Unions have long sought to change rules governing union elections, claiming they are stacked in favor of management. They want the entire election process scrapped, with a "card check" substituted for a secret ballot.

Under card check, if just over 50 percent of workers in a workplace sign statements approving a union, the union would be in. Unions say such a measure would "level the playing field" with management and help reverse years of decline; business says it would lead to workers being coerced into unions.

"This is a very big deal," said William Gould, a Stanford University law professor and onetime head of the National Labor Relations Board. "It would be the biggest revision of labor law since 1947, since the Taft-Hartley Act."


Stanford's Gould said federal law needs to be retooled to better protect workers' organizing rights, though not necessarily as outlined in the card check plan.

Gould favors holding elections but speeding them up to cut down on long anti-union campaigns. "I don't think card check is a deliberative process," Gould said. "We're substituting one imperfect process for another."


The card check battle will be fought in the Senate. "The graveyard of labor reform is the Senate, because of the filibuster," Gould said. Republicans killed card check in the Senate in 2007 with a filibuster. And the Democrats are still one vote short of the 60 needed to halt a filibuster.