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As Volkswagen Workers Vote for Union Representation, Secret Ballot Elections and Robust Debate Must Be Protected

On April 19, the NLRB announced Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, voted in favor of union representation. The vote was held via secret ballot in an NLRB-supervised election at the workplace.

The following statement can be attributed to CDW Chair Kristen Swearingen:

“Secret ballot elections are the gold standard for a reason. They guarantee workers can fully vote their conscience without undue pressure from others. Workers at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, had an opportunity to vote via secret ballots in an election supervised by the NLRB and in the most accessible location for all of the workers — the workplace. All workers considering unionization must be given this same opportunity to ensure they can make their choice without intimidation, harassment, or coercion from anyone.

Time and time again, data proves that in-person elections held via secret ballots under NLRB supervision at the workplace result in the highest voter participation. The NLRB should hold such elections wherever and whenever possible to guarantee that workers’ true wishes about representation are implemented.

“CDW remains concerned about efforts to silence employers during organizing drives. In January, 33 Senators urged auto companies currently targeted by UAW to pledge to remain neutral during the unionization campaign. Demanding neutrality harms the election process and infringes on workers’ right to be fully informed before voting. Workers must be able to hear robust debate about the merits of unionization before making such an impactful decision.”

CDW Applauds House Appropriators for Maintaining NLRB Funding, Electronic Voting Rider

Washington, DC – On March 21, Congressional appropriators released the minibus for FY25 that includes funding for the National Labor Relations Board. The minibus provides the NLRB with the same funding levels as it received in FY24 and includes the long-standing policy rider that prohibits the Board from implementing electronic voting in union representation elections. CDW applauds appropriators for these decisions.

The following statement can be attributed to CDW Chair Kristen Swearingen:

“CDW appreciates Congress keeping NLRB funding flat in FY25 and maintaining the policy rider on electronic voting. As we explained in our recent letter, electronic voting would break with NLRB precedent, increase the risk of coercion and fraud in representation elections, and waste the NLRB’s resources. Secret ballot elections are the gold standard and should be guaranteed to workers in order to ensure they can voice their opinion on representation without the threat of harassment or intimidation.

“The NLRB over the last few years has pursued damaging policies that risk significant negative repercussions for the economy, workers, and employers. Congress is right to maintain the agency’s funding to help limit the Board’s harmful policies, but frankly that may not be enough. Future policy riders may be necessary to further rein in the Board if they continue to move forward with their biased and unreasonable policies. Congress should considered using the appropriations process to ensure the Board cannot exceed its authority.”

CDW Urges Appropriators to Protect Secret Ballot Elections

Washington, DC – On March 14, CDW sent a letter to House and Senate appropriators urging them to protect secret ballot elections in union representation elections by maintaining a bipartisan policy rider that prohibits the NLRB from implementing electronic voting in representation elections. The letter also urges Congress to condition any increase in NLRB funding on additional riders that will rein in the Board’s actions.

The following quote can be attributed to CDW Chair Kristen Swearingen:

“Congress, the NLRB, federal courts, and stakeholders have all recognized that secret ballots in union representation elections are the best means for ensuring workers can freely vote their conscience and for guaranteeing secure and credible elections.

“Electronic voting, on the other hand, would break with NLRB precedent, increase the risk of coercion and fraud in representation elections, and waste the NLRB’s limited resources. That’s why the policy rider was established decades ago and why Congress has repeatedly included it  in appropriations packages year after year. Congress should maintain the rider again and protect workers, election credibility, and Board resources.

“Moreover, during this administration, the NLRB has routinely pushed for vast expansion of its authority and wasted taxpayer resources on long-shot, radical policy changes. Congress should use the appropriations process to rein in the NLRB’s behavior and force the agency to focus its resources on more appropriate efforts.”

 

CDW Files Brief Calling Out NLRB for Trying to Eliminate Secret Ballot Union Representation Elections

Washington, DC – On February 9, CDW along with several other employer organizations filed an amicus brief before the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Cemex v NLRB, a case in which the NLRB rewrote the rules for union representation elections in a manner that will make card check the default way for determining union representation. CDW’s brief explains that the new procedures violate Supreme Court precedent, ignores Congressional intent, exposes workers to intimidation and harassment, and violates their right to a private ballot.

The following statement can be attributed to CDW Chair Kristen Swearingen:

“The Cemex decision has upended the union representation process. Instead of workers voting via a private ballot on whether they want to unionize, unions can now coerce, intimidate, and lie to workers to get them to sign authorization cards with no guarantee that a secret ballot election will ever be held. The Board pursued this policy despite the Supreme Court, federal appeals courts, and Congress all clearly stating that the secret ballot process is the only method that gives workers the privacy they need to truly vote their conscience on such an important issue.

“With this ruling, the Board has made it clear they do not want to protect workers’ privacy. They do not want a fair and level playing field during unionization campaigns. They want to tip the scales in favor of unions at any expense, including the rights and wellbeing of workers.

“The Board’s Cemex decision should be set aside, and secret ballot elections should be protected at all costs.”

 

The other organizations that joined the brief were Associated Builders and Contractors, Associated General Contractors of America, American Hotel & Lodging Association, American Trucking Associations, US Chamber of Commerce, FMI – The Food Industry Association, HR Policy Association, Independent Electrical Contractors, International Foodservice Distributors Association, International Franchise Association, National Association of Manufacturers, National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, National Federation of Independent Business, and National Retail Federation.

CDW Supports Bills to Protect Workers from a Rogue NLRB

Washington D.C. – On December 12, CDW sent a letter to the House Education and the Workforce Committee in support of the Employee Rights Act (ERA) (H.R. 2700), Modern Worker Empowerment Act (H.R. 5513), and Save Local Business Act (H.R. 2826). The bills would protect workers, entrepreneurs, and small businesses from the biases and misinformed actions of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB or Board). 

The following statement can be attributed to CDW Chair Kristen Swearingen:

“CDW thanks the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions for holding a hearing to examine bills that prioritize workers’ freedom of choice at the same time as the NLRB threatens to strip it away. The Board’s approach is damaging to workers and small businesses and CDW urges the House of Representatives to pass these bills to reign in the NLRB.”

CDW Releases White Paper Showing Dangers of Employers Agreeing to Neutrality and Card Check Agreements

Washington, DC – On May 22, the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace published a white paper, How Neutrality and Card Check Agreements Harm the American Worker, proving that when employers enter into neutrality and card check agreements with unions attempting to organize their workplaces, employees are denied access to critical information they need to make a fully informed decision about unionization as well as their right to a secret ballot election free of coercion and intimidation.

The following statement can be attributed to CDW Chair Kristen Swearingen:

“Neutrality and card check agreements are designed to prevent employees from exercising their right to make a meaningful choice about representation.

“Neutrality agreements silence employers and allow unions to misrepresent the facts and even suppress vital information. This leaves workers without a true understanding of who the union is, how their life will be impacted by unionization, and the actual changes unions can achieve. Employers play a critical role in filling this information gap, but neutrality agreements ensure workers will be left without the full picture before voting on union representation.

“Card check agreements expose workers to coercion, intimidation, and deception. They prevent workers from voting for union representation through an NLRB-supervised, secret ballot election, forcing workers to make their decision in front of union organizers and colleagues. Union intimidation of employees to sign cards is well-documented, and that history should not and cannot be ignored.

“These agreements decimate workers’ rights and should not be applauded or encouraged. Employers who care about their employees’ best interests shouldn’t agree to neutrality or card check agreements but instead should insist on protecting workers’ rights to a full and open debate and secret ballot elections.”

CDW Files Brief Condemning NLRB General Counsel’s Efforts to Eliminate Secret Ballot Elections, Employer Speech Rights

Washington, DC – On February 8, the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, along with six other employer organizations, filed an amicus brief before the NLRB on a case against Starbucks in which the Board’s General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo is attempting to eliminate employer speech rights in union organizing drives as well as employees’ right to secret ballots in union representation elections. CDW’s brief condemns the General Counsel’s proposed changes for violating the National Labor Relations Act, the First Amendment, and numerous judicial decisions affirming these fundamental rights.

The following statement can be attributed to CDW Chair Kristen Swearingen:

“The NLRB’s General Counsel wants to force unions on employees who have voted against union representation and silence any debate on the merits of a particular union or union representation generally. In her brief in this case, the General Counsel is demanding that the Board abandon decades of settled law and bring back policies that were soundly rejected by prior Boards, the Supreme Court, and Congress. Not only are the arguments she makes without legal foundation, but the substantive policies she’s pursuing are fundamentally at odds with employees’ right to make an informed choice by secret ballot election, the NLRA’s legislative history, and the First Amendment.

“The Supreme Court, Board, and Congress have routinely protected employees’ right to secret ballot elections, acknowledging that a private ballot election following ‘robust debate’ is by far the best means of ensuring workers can freely choose whether or not they want union representation. The Supreme Court has said our labor laws favor ‘uninhibited robust, and wide-open debate in labor disputes’ and that ‘secret elections are generally the most satisfactory – indeed the preferred – method of ascertaining whether a union has majority support.’ Congress has rejected attempts to eliminate secret ballots in union elections and supported free debate, and President John F. Kennedy said it is essential the law provide for union election campaigns ‘in which both parties can present their viewpoints.’

“The General Counsel is seeking to use her political position to do an end run around the Supreme Court and Congress to force unions on employees that don’t want them and end debate on issues that should be debated. The Board should unequivocally reject this outrageous ideological crusade.”

The fellow amici on the brief were Associated Builders and Contractors, the Chamber of Commerce, Independent Electrical Contractors, International Foodservice Distributors Association, National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors, and National Retail Federation.

CDW Sends Letter to House Committee Cautioning against PRO Act, NLRB Overreach

Washington, DC – On September 12, CDW sent a letter to the House Education and Labor Committee expressing serious concerns with the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act and recent activity and policies pursued by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and its General Counsel, Jennifer Abruzzo.

The following statement can be attributed to CDW Chair Kristen Swearingen:

“Economic analyses have proven that the PRO Act would have devastating consequences for the economy. It would cause economic upheaval at a time when our economy is still struggling with recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. Inflation is rising, fears of a recession are top of mind, supply chains continue to lag behind demand, and workforce shortages are limiting economic growth. Particularly concerning at this moment in time is the PRO Act’s provision removing the 70-year ban on secondary strikes. As seen by the recently threatened rail strike, this provision alone could shut down the country’s supply chain. Surveys have also shown that the PRO Act is not supported by the public. Congress should abandon the PRO Act and work towards helping the economy get back on track.

“At the same time as Congress pursues this misguided legislation, the NLRB and General Counsel Abruzzo are attempting to rewrite labor law to force unions on workers whether they want one or not. They are trying to eliminate secret ballots in union representation elections and wipe out employers’ First Amendment rights during union organizing campaigns. They are putting employers in an impossible position by forcing them to tolerate discriminatory behavior in the workplace despite the clear violation of federal anti-discrimination laws that such tolerance would require. The Board is pursuing a new joint-employer standard that would destroy small and local businesses. This NLRB and General Counsel Abruzzo are pursuing radical policies without any consideration for the damaging effects they will cause for the regulated community.

“And now, there are allegations that NLRB staff are colluding with labor unions in representation elections and unfair labor practices cases against specific employers. This is simply beyond the pale. The NLRB is supposed to be a neutral arbiter of the law, and instead, staffers are tilting the balance in favor of their preferred side.

“Congress should demand the NLRB and General Counsel Abruzzo stop rewriting labor law to impose their own beliefs on the nation’s economy. The economy simply cannot right itself while simultaneously struggling to keep up with the never-ending radicalization of labor policy.”

CDW Sends Letter to House Opposing Radical Labor Provisions in NDAA

On July 11, CDW sent a letter to all members of the House of Representatives urging them to oppose an amendment in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2022 that “would eliminate workers’ right to secret ballots in union representation elections, infringing on their right to privacy and their right to vote their conscience on whether or not they want to be represented by a union.”

As we explain in our letter, Amendment 237 would require employers who contract or subcontract with the Department of Defense to recognize a labor organization as the representative of their contracting workforce if the union presents signed authorization cards from a majority of the workers eligible to participate in the petitioned-for bargaining unit. Passing this amendment would replace secret ballot elections with card check, a fundamentally flawed system that needlessly exposes workers to coercion, harassment, and intimidation and has been criticized by the Supreme Court, federal courts of appeals, the NLRB, and even several unions.

The letter states, “Card check is an unreliable method for determining workers’ wishes on union representation, and it exposes them to potential coercion, intimidation, and harassment by individuals attempting to influence their vote. The secret ballot, NLRB-supervised election process provides necessary safeguards to protect workers and their right to freely vote their conscience.”

CDW urges the House to oppose this amendment as well as two other amendments that would implement labor restrictions and do not belong in this bill – Amendment 403 and 809.

CDW Issues Report on the Dangers of Online Voting in Union Representation Elections

Washington, DC – On July 12, the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, composed of more than 400 major business and trade organizations, released a new report, Online Voting in Union Representation Elections: The Latest Attempt to Eliminate Workers’ Right to Secret Ballots, which highlights the dangers of implementing online voting in union representation elections and calls on Congress to reject a provision in the House appropriations bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2023, that requires that the NLRB to implement a system to conduct union representation elections electronically.

The following statement can be attributed to CDW Chair Kristen Swearingen:

“The provision included in the Labor HHS appropriations bill is the latest attempt in a two-decade-long effort by unions and their allies in government to eliminate secret ballots in union representation elections. Secret ballots are a fundamental right in any democracy and provide voters with the ability to vote their conscience without influence from others, but if unions get their way and this provision is passed into law, workers will be forced to vote for or against union representation with union organizers and coworkers standing over their shoulders, pressuring them to support the union. Eliminating secret ballots would be a gross violation of workers’ privacy.

“Electronic voting is a system ripe for coercion, intimidation, and harassment. It violates workers’ privacy and makes it impossible for the NLRB to safeguard the election. Moreover, as the report notes, the National Mediation Board, several states, and various foreign countries have all shelved online voting programs because of costs and cybersecurity concerns. For these reasons, the Supreme Court, other federal courts, and the NLRB itself have all recognized that secret ballots are the best method for determining the will of the workers.

“CDW’s new report highlights the dangers of implementing electronic voting and how unsuitable electronic voting would be for union representation elections. Our report proves secret ballot elections are the best method for protecting workers’ freedom to join or refrain from joining a union.”