The Basics on "Chard Check (mate)"

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The Basics on “Card Check (mate)”

The world of power politics is not all that different from the relationship between a dog and a fire hydrant.  In the issue mislabeled by the unions as the “Employee Free Choice Act” and known by the Chamber simply as “Card Check” it is clear that without a vigorous effort against the bill, business will be playing the role of the hydrant.

Many of the Chamber’s members have heard about this issue but remain confused about it.  Here are the basics of the issue and why it is the single most serious threat to American economy remaining competitive in a global marketplace.

Hear from an expert – Special Informational Seminar 

Card Check: What does it mean to your business?

Wednesday, May 27th

7:30 AM in Sioux Falls at the Holiday Inn City Centre

12 Noon – in Rapid City at the Civic Center

Speakers include:

Doug Loon – Vice President of Regional Affairs, US Chamber of Commerce

Joel Abrahamson – Shareholder and Attorney of Labor and Employment Law for Leonard, Street and Deinard in Minneapolis.

Card Check Basics

This proposed law will change the process used by unions to organize workers within a business.  The new rules make it much easier for unions to sign up workers and then take away the business owners’ right to seek an election conducted by secret ballot.  The option for a secret ballot will be exclusively left to the unions – not even employees who don’t want a union will be able to seek a private ballot election. 

The bill then sets time limits (up to 120 days) for a business to arrive at an agreement with the union.  If an agreement is not reached, the proposals are submitted for binding arbitration.  A person trained in conflict resolution from the arbitration service will then have the power to determine the contract between a business and its employees. 

Finally, the bill dramatically increases the penalties on business owners and managers for talking to employees (making virtually any discussion seem like intimidation) but does nothing to address intimidation by union organizers.

No More Secret Ballots

Under current law when a union organizing team has secured sufficient signatures, the employer is notified and can choose to have an election which is run by the National Labor Relations Board and uses a secret ballot.  These secret ballots would be just like the ones used to elect public officials and, ironically, union leaders themselves.  The proposed Card Check legislation simply allows union organizers to turn in their cards when they have 50% of the workers plus one; and at that point they can declare the business organized and begin negotiations on behalf of the employees.

Union organizers are allowed to approach your employees in their homes and at the bowling ally and anyplace else.  One Chamber member reported that several years ago union representatives trying to get cards signed by their employees would ring the doorbell at employees’ homes on Saturday mornings at 8 am.  This is one of many cases where employees signed cards to end the harassment by union organizers, then voted overwhelmingly against the union using the right to a private ballot. 

Unions claim “workers” maintain the rights for a secret ballot – this is not true.  When the unions make this claim, they are using the terms “workers” and “unions” interchangeably.  Under current law the only time that the National Labor Relations Board can have contact with employees of a business outside the union that is representing them is when those employees are seeking to decertify the union.  This can only be done after the union has been representing them for a year.  There is nothing in the proposed Card Check bill that changes this provision.

Binding Arbitration 

Card Check requires a business and a union to come to an agreement within 90 days (given several other deadlines, the total time is closer to 120 days) to finalize a contract or it will be decided using binding arbitration.  The most serious threat to business is the lack of economic understanding by arbitrators.  If unions demand a defined benefit pension plan and the arbitration officer thinks that is reasonable, you get to pay for a pension plan.  Knowing that the arbitration process generally looks for middle ground there is no motivation by either side to make serious offers.

Right-to-Work NOT an Antidote

South Dakota’s status as a right to work state does not protect your business from being forced into a union situation by the card check law.  Right-to-Work will protect your employees from being forced to join the union but if a majority of them sign the cards and you are forced into a contract, that contract will control the workplace for all employees even if they don’t join and pay dues to the union.

If the contract says only left-handed plumbers can disconnect a pipe and only right- handed plumbers can connect or reconnect pipes (they might reverse those rules for left-handed threads, but only after the foreman approves), then your plumbers will be doing half a job regardless of whether they have actually joined the union.

A Look at Employment-at-Will

While South Dakota is an “employment-at-will” state (meaning that employers don’t have to give reasons for dismissing employees and employees do not have to give reasons for quitting), the employment-at-will laws have never taken superiority over employee manuals and contracts.  Being candid (not a common mode of operation in public policy debates), one of the stronger claims that help advance interest in unions is protection from being dumped for no expressed reason. 

WARNING – Using employment-at-will to dismiss an employee who is trying to organize a union in your business is a violation of Federal law!  South Dakota’s employment-at-will law means nothing in the face of those charges.  In fact, it is these very restrictions on employers that Card Check strengthens to the point they seem to be on enough steroids to make A-Rod look absolutely anemic.  Penalties can run up to $20,000 for making statements that appear to be aimed at firing someone.

Card Check isn’t simply bad law.  It is the kind of bullying that is forbidden on playgrounds and is the most blatant political payoff in the recent history of the republic. 

Act Now!!!!  Call the numbers listed below – either the Washington DC offices or the local offices of our congressional delegation and simply tell them that Card Check is a threat to the economy and is an insult to job-creating honest South Dakota business leaders.

When calling Rep. Herseth Sandlin and Sen. Johnson encourage them to vote against the bill and tell Senator Johnson that he should also vote NO on the “cloture” vote.

When calling Senator Thune be sure to thank him and his staff for helping lead the opposition to Card Check.

Representative Stephanie Herseth Sandlin

Washington Office:  (202) 225-2801

Aberdeen Office:  (605) 626-3440

Rapid City Office:  (605) 394-5280

Sioux Falls Office: (605) 367-8371

Email link:

Senator Tim Johnson

Washington Office:  (202) 224-5842

Aberdeen Office:  (605) 226-3440

Rapid City Office: (605) 341-3990

Sioux Falls Office:  (605) 332-8896

Email link:

Senator John Thune
Washington Office:  (202) 224-2321

Aberdeen Office:  (605) 225-8823

Rapid City Office:  (605) 348-7551

Sioux Falls Office:  (605) 334-9596

Email link:

Click here to read the editorials written by Chamber leaders regarding Card Check.

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