The representation election is the hallmark of our labor law. Workers vote by secret ballot about whether or not they want union representation; if a majority votes yes, the union is certified by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), and collective bargaining begins. It all seems very democratic, and almost beyond questioning.
Yet the law has come under heavy fire in recent years. “We have to ask,” David Sickler, the AFL-CIO West Coast regional director, began a recent speech, “why the hell unions are
where they are right now? Why are they, we, in a declining mode?” His answer: “Because unions are trying to make change by following the old model established by federal law.” Stickler’s condemnation was unequivocal. “The law that governs organizing and collective bargaining”—the law, that is, centering on the representation election—”is a failure. . . . [It] doesn’t work.”
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