Brace yourselves for intense card-check battle

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Let the games begin. That was my reaction to the introduction of the card-check legislation on Tuesday. In other words, to throw around a couple more clichés, hold onto your hats and buckle your seat belts. Things could get interesting.

As we know—but just to recap—the legislation, which is called the Employee Free Choice Act, would allow unions to organize without the current requirement of a secret ballot election. Instead, a union would gain recognition if a majority of workers check cards (thus the nickname “card check”) in front of a union representative. Unions could form more easily as a result of the bill.

The prospect of more labor activity is frightening to a lot of industries, including the long-term care field, which already struggles on low margins. Unions imply higher wages and benefits, mandatory contracts and the hassles of bargaining sessions, and possible walkouts and strikes.

But nursing homes are by no means are the only anti-card check players. Businesses, including the powerful U.S. Chamber of Commerce, oppose card-check.

They face formidable opposition. Unions, including the Service Employees International Union, which represents some 160,000 nursing home employees, are pushing the legislation to Congress.

And they might just pull it off. U.S. lawmakers could not muster the support in the last Congress to pass the bill, but things are different this time around. A pro-union administration is in power and generally union-friendly Democrats control Congress.

Still, as the laborious negotiations over the stimulus package revealed, a Democratic majority is no guarantee.

And Republicans are a smaller but tightly knit group. GOP lawmakers have introduced the competing Secret Ballot Protection Act, which would preserve the requirement of a secret ballot in union organizing elections.

So who will win? As recent political and economic events have shown, we are not living in predictable times.

Anything could happen. Be prepared for either outcome.

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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.