I was reading this article in TNR about unions, and read this:
As you may have heard, union representation in the private sector workforce is now down below 10 percent--its lowest level since, well, a very long time. (At least the 1930s, certainly.) And a major reason has been the inability of unions to organize new members in the face of concerted employer resistance--which, in turn, is a product of America's particularly labor-unfriendly organizing laws.
Under the current legal framework, a company does not need to recognize a union until a formal election has been held under the auspices of the National Labor Relations Board (nlrb) and a majority of workers has voted for it. That may sound pretty straightforward, but it isn't. Going through the requisite election process is notoriously cumbersome and difficult, particularly since it gives employers all sorts of opportunities to intimidate workers or otherwise derail the process unfairly. In theory, the nlrb is supposed to watch over the election process to keep employers in line. In practice, the nlrb is so ineffectual--and the penalties for violating labor laws so relatively meaningless--that a determined employer can manipulate a union election with virtual impunity.
That's why, for many years, forward-thinking labor leaders have been pushing to create a new kind of union certification system known as "card check." In a card-check system, a union can begin negotiating on behalf of workers as soon as a majority of them sign pieces of paper (cards) saying they support unionization. By allowing workers to get labor representation immediately, a card-check process stymies companies that might be tempted to tamper with a formal election.
The most aggressive unions out there, such as unite here, have had considerable success organizing hotel workers, janitors, and other low-wage workers by getting employers to sign agreements that they will abide by card-check elections. Sometimes, they do this just by asking nicely--and sometimes they do it by not being so nice. In order to pressure a reluctant company to abide by card check, a union might run a "corporate campaign" exposing the company's less savory business practices or wield the shareholder power of a union pension fund. But even the tougher tactics fail sometimes. That is why labor would like card check to be binding law, as it is in Canada.
OK, I read this twice, and I still dont think I get it.
In Holland, it's easy: whereever you work (as far as I know), you are free to become a union member. You send in a registration form to the union of your choice in your branch of work (both the secular/social-democratic and the christian national union associations have separate unions for each branch of work/industry). You pay the annual fee, presto, you're a union member, and eligible for the different kinds of support the union can give you (advice, legal support, etc). If the worst comes to the worst, the union can also help with financial support for the employees in times of strike.
But from this text ^^ I gather that this is not so in the US? You can not just become a member individually? Like, before anyone in the company is allowed to "unionize" himself, the company has to give its approval, which in turn is dependent on a ballot of all the workers? But if such a ballot passes, does that mean that all the employees are 'unionised', or just that they have the freedom to do so themselves?
I am sure I can safely bet that you dont have "collective labour agreements" between the national trade unions and employers' associations, huh? (In Holland, each year the national employers' associations and various trade unions come together and hammer out such a "CLA" (or CAO in Dutch) for the separate branches of work/industry - or most of them, anyway - in which they agree a minimum and maximum wage increase for the sector, and arrangements on working hours, conditions etc.)