CARD CHECKS….One of the reasons that middle class and working class incomes have been virtually stagnant for the past couple of decades is the sad state of private sector unions. (Public sector unions are doing fine.) Union representation in private industry has been declining since the 70s and is now down to about 8% of the workforce.

There are lots of reasons for this, but one of them is that old, smokestack industries have been declining ? and their unions with them ? while successive Republican administrations have made it increasingly difficult to start unions in the newer service industries that have taken their place. On Monday, striking service workers at the University of Miami won a small victory by finally reaching an agreement with Unicco Service Company to form a union via card check, but it was a victory that shows just how tough unionization has become in America. Nathan Newman explains:

Part of the agreement was that the union would have to sign up 60% of employees to gain recognition, rather than the 50% required to win an NLRB election.

Which illustrates how bad the NLRB election process is. The workers preferred a lengthy strike, a hunger strike that hospitalized multiple workers, and a requirement for a super-majority rather than face the buzzsaw of a federal election, where employers manipulate the rules and routinely threaten and fire workers to defeat unions.

In a card check campaign, a union merely has to persuade workers to sign cards saying they want to join a union. No election is required. Conservatives argue that avoiding elections is unfair and antidemocratic, and they might have a point if NLRB recognition elections were run fairly. But in reality the rules are massively skewed in favor of management, and this makes card checks the only realistic option left to many unions. More on the subject here.

Increased private sector unionization is probably the only effective, large-scale way to systematically help America’s middle class, and until we can level the NLRB playing field, card checks are the only way to do it. Congratulations to the U of Miami workers for winning the right to unionize. May many others follow in their path.