Sharpton Comes Out Against EFCA

Sharpton Somewhat surprising (though not surprising that The National Review picked it up):

This is a transcript [from] the Al Sharpton Radio program earlier [yesterday].

Al Sharpton: Yeah, well, what I don’t understand about it which is why I’m in the campaign is why wouldn’t those of us who support workers being protected, why would we not want their privacy protected.  I mean why would we want them opened up to this kind of possible coercion?

Sylvester [Smith]: Well, and that’s the 50 million dollar question, Rev. Sharpton, it’s a question we’ve been trying to answer but we think that the heart of this issue is not about protecting workers, the heart of this issue is about the decline of union membership that’s been going on in this country for the past thirty years.  The unions at this point are in a death spiral and much of it’s tied to the exportation of production jobs from this country to other countries and the unions…

Al Sharpton: Yeah, the outsourcing, well I’m all for, and as well for those who don’t believe in the right to organizing, clearly I’m for any legislation to give any state the right to organize, but I’m talking about specifically where workers are not protected from coercion, in terms of these card-checks that you talk about, and as arbitration because explain, Charlie King, to me the whole question that you raised, if you have a federal arbitrator who says that this is the deal, even when the union only established out of card-check, is the deal for two years, and there’s nothing you can do about it, I mean, a lot of the business that we afford for the African American community to get contracts and sub contracts and all.  They could face some very serious problems here.

Sharpton appears to worry that the EFCA could circumscribe employee’s privacy rights and also first contracts being hoisted upon minority-owned businesses by outside arbitrators.

There is a lot to say in response, and I hope that Rev. Sharpton will listen to the other side’s explanation about where the real coercion and lack of privacy takes place — in the workplace from the employer. I also hope someone explains to him how interest arbitration works and that arbitrators do not just force employers to agree to onerous collective bargaining agreements. Interest arbitration takes materials and evidence from both sides and then comes up with a compromise that both sides can live with.

My fear is that if Rev. Sharpton is confused about the benefits of EFCA, then unions and their allies have some hard work ahead explaining to legislators — especially Democratic ones — how this law will work and what abuses it will prevent.

Cross posted at Workplace Prof Blog.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Mark Kapocius

    Prof. Secunda,

    Great post, definitely worthy of greater debate. Let’s look at the whole text of Rev. Sharpton’s statements.

    Ommitted from your excerpt is this statement:

    “This whole concept of eliminating the secret ballot is contrary to everything that people like yourself fought for in the civil rights movement to give African American the right to vote.”

    Here’s another:

    “What I don’t understand about it which is why I’m in the campaign is why wouldn’t those of us who support workers being protected, why would we not want their privacy protected.”

    I think he raises some salient points about the inherent conflict between civil rights and the elimination of secret ballots, as well as how elminating private votes benefits employees or anyone else besides labor union officials. Your post fails to mention these rather significant pitfalls of the EFCA. I would be interested in reading your thoughts on Rev. Sharpton’s other issues as well.

  2. Paul M. Secunda


    Thank you for your comments. I, of course, read the whole transcript and thought that I had included Sharpton’s concerns about privacy in my post. It was impossible for length reasons to include the whole transcript.

    In any event, those excerpt still go one of the basic issues which is whether employees are better off with secret ballots in the current union organizational environment or would be better served with card check recognition, which would require 50% plus 1 employees in the proposed bargaining unit to sign authorization cards to have the union represent them.

    Couple of points. First, I think there is not a good analogy here between the civil rights movement of the 60’s and secret ballot elections here. In the 60’s and before, black citizens were being disenfranchised from the process completely. Not so here. Instead, the same majority-rule principles are being adhered to, albeit by an alternative route of certification. I don’t if you have taken labor law, but it is important that you and others understand that card-check recognition is already permitted under the NLRA, just not required. Also that many states have such mandatory card check laws for public employees.

    Second, privacy of workers is indeed an important consideration, but it is all relative. Many employees have little privacy rights in the private-sector workplace and for instance, might be intimidated or otherwise pressured to supporting the employer (captive audience meetings is a widely used device) during the campaign. The union, on the other hand, has no access to employees at the workplace and is at a distinct disadvantage in explaining the potential benefits of unionization. So employees might be actually “casting” a more free ballot in discussing unionization with union supporters and use of the authorization cards than through “secret” elections.

    One last point (sorry, all good things come in threes): if the union supporters force, intimidate, or otherwise interfere with employees ability to make a free choice about whether they want to be represented by a union,the individual is free file unfair labor practice charges against the union.

    I hope this provides some additional context for my initial thoughts on Sharpton’s comments.


    Prof. Secunda

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