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Logistics Employers Fear Card Check Legislation
Wednesday, 10 March 2010 00:00
Unions keep up pressure to organize warehouses, other companies

The drive by labor unions to organize warehouses and other companies has not taken a back seat to the immediate goal of employees to retain their jobs during the economic downturn, according to an attorney who represents warehouse operators.

Pat O'Connor, government affairs counsel of the International Warehouse Logistics Association, said organized labor's primary goal of recent years, passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, also known as card check, is alive and well.

"The supposed death of card check is greatly exaggerated," O'Connor told the annual conference of the IWLA in Coronado, Calif.

If Congress were to approve card check legislation, a union attempting to organize a company would seek to get 50 percent plus one of the employees to sign a card requesting union representation. The company would then have to recognize the union as the bargaining unit without the need for a secret ballot election.

Although the economic downturn, a national unemployment rate of 9.7 percent and the Democratic Party's loss of its 60-member majority in the Senate appear to bode ill for passage of card check, O'Connor said organized labor has not given up on passing some type of legislation.

Furthermore, some labor analysts believe the National Labor Relations Board can impose card check through a regulatory action, he said.

Also, labor is considering other approaches such as pushing for "quickie elections." If 35 percent of a company's employees sign cards requesting unionization, the NLRB can require that an election by all employees be held in five days, O'Connor said.

Herb Shear, chairman and chief executive officer of GENCO Supply Chain Solutions, a warehouse and third-party logistics provider, charged that unionized warehouse operators "have a difficult time performing effectively."

If workers choose to be represented by a union, it is normally management's fault, Shear said. Successful managers do not treat employees the way managers want, but rather the way employees want to be treated.

In order to make this strategy work, the key is for management to "get workers to want what you want," Shear said.

GENCO has resisted union organizing attempts twice over the past decade. Such management efforts can cost $200,000 to $500,000, he said.

GENCO surveys nine percent of its employees each month so every worker has the opportunity to express personal views once a year. The company believes surveying employee attitudes toward unionization is a dynamic process. Since issues can crop up suddenly, it is necessary to survey a portion of the employee population each month.

If the surveys uncover views such as declining trust in management, a feeling that employees have no voice in the company, concern about job security or allegations of discriminatory practices, GENCO management takes immediate action, Shear said.

Journal of Commerce Online, 3/10/2010