The typical way workers form a union in the United States is ugly. When a majority of workers expresses interest in forming a union, management makes it their mission to talk them out of it by fair means or foul. At best, they force employees to sit through long lectures on the clock while they badmouth unions and hint that they might close their doors if the workers exercise their legal right to join a union and bargain collectively. At worst, supervisors fire the ringleaders to intimidate the others. The process culminates in a representation election run by the National Labor Relations Board. Whatever the outcome, it leaves both labor and management bitter for years thereafter.
There is an alternative. Some employers, preferring amicable relations with their workforce, announce at the start of the process that the decision to join a union or not belongs to the employees. Instead of waging a bitter campaign leading to a labor-board sponsored election, they just tell the workers: show me that a majority of you have signed up to join a union and we’ll bargain with the union you have chosen. This process is called “card check.”
Card check can bypass a lot of hard feelings between company and workers, but it relies on a critical intermediary – the two sides need a third party they both trust to actually count the cards. In this role, it’s not unusual to turn to clergy. Read more