Viewing blog posts written by Pamela Kan

'Card Check' tramples worker's privacy rights

Posted by Pamela Kan, CMTA Board Member (President, Bishop-Wisecarver) on Dec. 10, 2008

Last year, the misnamed "Employee Free Choice Act" (EFCA) was introduced in Congress.  This legislation -- expected to come to Congress early in 2009 -- effectively eliminates the private ballot process for choosing union representation and replaces it with a "card check system" when employees are deciding whether or not to join a union.  Earlier attempts to pass "card check" legislation in Congress were narrowly blocked.  However, union bosses have made it clear that their highest legislative priority next year is passage of EFCA.

The card check bill would eliminate decades of precedent established under the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 by taking away employees' freedom to choose under a federally supervised, private ballot election when deciding whether or not to join a union.

Current procedures lead to swift and fair elections—most elections are held within 56 days filing an election petition, and labor unions, nationally, prevail more than half of the time. Under current law, union organizers have to obtain the signatures of 30 percent of employees that express interest in joining a union. After these signatures are collected, union organizers can petition the National Labor Relations Board to hold a secret ballot election. If the labor union receives more than 50% of the vote in a federally-monitored secret ballot election, the union is certified and collective bargaining must begin.

However, under EFCA, secret ballot elections are replaced with a system called "card check" which allows a union to organize if a majority of employees simply sign an authorization card. Under this system, the employees' signatures are made public to the employer, the union organizers and co-workers. Under a card check system workers face intimidation and pressure about how they should choose from the union, from management or both.

Trading federally supervised private ballot elections for a card check process tramples the privacy of individual workers. Secret ballots are the only way to protect an individual's freedom to choose without subtle or overt coercion.

New research shows troubling signs for candidates who support the union "card check" legislation.  The surveys conducted in states across the country show a majority of voters oppose the elimination of secret ballot union elections. This research also shows dissonance between union members’ concerns and the legislative agenda of union leaders.  In most states, opposition to "card check" is actually higher among union households. However, organized labor has made it clear that passage of EFCA is their highest priority.

If Congress passes this proposal, they will be stripping away federally protected private ballots from the hands of American workers.   Bishop-Wisecarver -- a union organized company in Pittsburg, California -- encourages the state's editorial media to expose the unfairness of this issue and asks employees and employers to urge their representatives to defeat this legislation.

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Manufacturers formalize ballot positions: Prop, 2, 7, 10 & 11

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on Oct. 2, 2008

The California Manufacturers & Technology Association (CMTA) Board of Directors has voted to oppose -- Proposition 2, the farm animal confinement initiative and Proposition 10, the alternative fuel vehicles and renewable energy initiative. The CMTA Board acted in June to oppose Proposition 7, the renewable energy generation initiative and support Proposition 11, the redistricting initiative.

California manufacturers employ 1.5 million workers in the state. These companies depend upon policies that prioritize State funds properly and reduce business costs comparatively to the rest of the nation. Propositions 2 and 10 work against those principles and burden our large and small employers in a way that affects all working families and consumers. CMTA President, Jack M. Stewart made the following official comments on the two propositions:
    Prop 2 (Standards for Confining Farm Animals)
    "Existing federal and state farm animal confinement standards have provided safe, sound and humane housing systems for our egg-laying hens. This initiative would require free-range production that would drive up business and consumer costs and force egg-production out of California. These types of regulations should be addressed by experts who understand the safety of our animals and not by the ballot box and 30-second campaign commercials."

    Prop 10 (Alternative Fuel Vehicles and Renewable Energy)
    "Proposition 10 provides a $5 billion bond for a pre-determined alternative fuel -- natural gas. Both the market and developing rules from the California Air Resources Board should dictate which alternative fuels get us to our greenhouse gas and other environmental goals quickest and in the most cost-effective manner. If the State is not careful and diligent about the source and direction of alternative fuel funds, Californians could easily be paying the highest cost for the least efficient fuels and technologies, while other states more patiently and thoroughly allow the market and developing research to decide which technologies and fuels are the least expensive and most efficient."

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Manufacturers beg California to 'stay true'

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on July 1, 2008

Did you know Detroit was the wealthiest city in the World in 1950?  Now, in 2008, half of the city is gone.  I can't tell you all the dynamics that made this occur but I am certain this is not the only time this phenomenon has happened, or the last, given the ultra-competitive nature of domestic and world economies.

Now, hold that thought, I'll come back to it.

CMTA just concluded it's quarterly board meeting.  At the usual Summer gathering, CMTA holds a Roundtable amongst the Board companies to make sure we (the staff) understand the issues affecting manufacturing operations most.

What we found, once again, were companies with an unfettered passion to continue to make their product in California and succeed both for the company and their employees.  We also found a much-less-than-comfortable tipping point for these companies' operational success or failure in the State.

Here's how it broke down:   
  • 22 of CMTA's 42 board companies (ranging from aerospace to bioscience to computers to cement to food processing) were present
  • 130,000 California employees represented

Here are the issues raised most (at least 8 times each):   
  • Lack of skilled workforce  (one company reported 90% of their applicants can't pass first skills test)
  • Future greenhouse gas reduction costs (and overall energy costs)
  • Inflexibility in Meal and Rest period regulations
  • Rising healthcare costs
  • California Environmental Quality Act lawsuits
  • Overall business costs (numerous companies said their California facilities were the most expensive among their countrywide operations)

For these reasons, most participants indicated that if they grew, their companies would likely grow elsewhere and a few said they continue to consider shifting some amount of operations out of the State.

These are good actors bringing in high salaries, incredible benefits and producing the technologies, products and innovation that drive a regional superpower and, in many instances, contribute to our homeland security.    These are companies who should be courted at every turn, not burdens left to ponder their future based on their close vicinity to the Pacific Ocean and a few Universities.  Further, these are revenue producing operations that would be the crown jewel for any other state.

What goes unnoticed in California's lost and migrating manufacturing jobs rhetoric is that the downward spiral is incremental and barely noticeable from month to month.  We don't throw entire 5,000-employee operations and facilities on wide load trucks and move them to Arizona in one weekend.  It's far more incremental and under-the-radar than that and it happens in various ways.  Those ways have led us to the loss of more than 440,000 manufacturing jobs since 2001 (3,300 just last month).

One aerospace supplier and manufacturer with 250 employees said it best at the Roundtable:  "We must stay true," she said with some of the most sincere passion I've seen in a while.  True to what makes California and any other leader great.  True to our workforce's potential.  True to what gives us our base of success, resource, employment, confidence and leadership ability.  True to our soul.  That soul is manufacturing and, for some reason, it's luster in California's Capitol, regulatory agencies and media circles is dying.

We are losing ground to other states and the rest of the world in places like China, Russia and India.  From those countries alone we compete with 300 million of their entrepreneurs, engineers and big thinkers.  People who can otherwise work anywhere they want in today's instant information age.   For that reason, we need to recognize every ounce of good and compete domestically for every sliver of manufacturing.   And if I hear one more person say "Well, it's California," or "We're only losing to India" or "Everything is changing", I'm going to whisper in their ear ever so softly, "Glengary, Glenross."  Because, if you've seen the movie, that's what a majority of our workers will become - angry real estate agents (or worse yet, lawyers) competing for limited pieces of meat and slogging along with a good chance of failure and unrecognized potential.

Our robust producers deserve so much more than superficial recognition ... and I'm not sure they even get that anymore (See Sen. Don Perata saying "Manufacturing is dead" on the Senate floor).  They deserve hard action and support to keep them competitive here in California.  They bend over backwards to do right, take care of their employees, abide by the law, and protect their workers by always looking for new opportunities.  Their employees deserve better too.  They work hard, succeed and they are happy with the houses, cars, college degrees, training and other assorted luxuries afforded within their manufacturing salaries and careers.  They even ponder investing in their own manufacturing companies.

Now, remember Detroit?  After losing a quarter of our industrial base in seven years, California is half way to a similar demise.   Maybe I'm taking that analogy a bit far but take out Hollywood, lawyers and doctors and we'll be an economy running on fumes.  Like CMTA's passionate board member said, "We must stay true"... stay true to our manufacturing soul and workers such as the one who worked for the same woman speaking with so much passion ... her employee had explained a few years ago why he chose his career path: "I have only a high school degree, I make $72,000 a year and I make things that are on the moon."  Let's stay true to that!

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