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Debunking Dumb Polling and Even Worse Reporting on Employee Free Choice, Part One

Wrong Way ... Way Wrong by Bob.Fornal

Photo by Bob.Fornal on Flickr

A corporate front group funded polls in Nevada and Colorado to show opposition to the group’s only issue: the Employee Free Choice Act.  And of course, media outlets not only printed the results as unchallenged fact, but failed to do the most basic fact check on the poll’s questions and on their own reports of the poll.  It’s so wrong, in fact, I have to break this post into two parts.  First up: the content of the Employee Free Choice Act.  Next up: fake electoral consequences around the bill.

The Workforce Fairness Institute, an outfit of GOP operatives like Bush ad man Mark McKinnon and a number of former staff of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, fed its supremely slanted poll to stenographer reporter Lisa Mascaro at the Las Vegas Sun.

As Mascaro transcribed:

New polling out today shows little support in Nevada for key provisions of the Employee Free Choice Act, the labor-led legislation that would make it easier for workers to form unions — an issue that may return to the congressional agenda in the new year.

The poll showed 57 percent of respondents oppose changing the way unions are organized and 64 percent oppose allowing mandatory arbitration to settle organizational disputes between workers and managers, as is proposed under the bill.

Oh yeah?  That sounds pretty convincing.  Let’s see how the first question was asked:

This new legislation would change the way unions are formed.  Instead of holding a federally supervised secret ballot election to decide whether to unionize, union organizers would be allowed to ask employees to sign a card saying they support forming a union.  Once a majority of employees sign these cards, the union would officially represent that company’s entire workforce.

Wrong.  Really wrong.   Current law allows for employees to sign cards, and if the employer agrees, the workers are represented by a union.  This question implies both that signing cards is a brand new idea, the cards certification is not federally supervised, and that an election is no longer an option.  All are blatantly false.  It’s no wonder WFI found 57% of people oppose this completely fictional scenario.

Next question: Mascaro claims “64% oppose mandatory arbitration to settle organizational disputes.”  This is hilariously wrong.  The poll question, which itself is purposefully wrong, asked about first contract arbitration, part of the Employee Free Choice Act that allows for a neutral arbitrator to resolve sticking points for the first contract between a union and a corporation.  To frame this question as an arbitrator to resolve organizational disputes is just stupid.

Now, the poll question itself isn’t stupid, but it is wrong.

This new legislation would change the bargaining process.  This legislation would give the newly formed union and the employer 90 days to reach a contract agreement or else the matter will be handed over to federal arbitrators.  It would be those arbitrators who would determine the wages, benefits and other terms of the contract that employees would be required to work under for two years.

First contract arbitration helps the lucky few who actually beat the rigged game of union organizing and win representation: one year after a union election, 52% lack a contract, and still 37% lack a contract after two years.

First contract arbitration solves this problem by allowing an impartial arbitrator to resolve points of contention in the contract after consulting with both sides at the bargaining table.  It’s important to note that this arbitrator – who is not a “federal arbitrator,” but is a professional who stakes his reputation on impartiality – doesn’t write a contract from whole cloth.  The arbitrator hears from the workers and the corporation on the unresolved points of the contract and makes a decision about those points to finish the contract.  The way WFI’s question is phrased makes it sound like the arbitration process happens in a vacuum without any input from either side.

That’s just part of the poll.  There are equally egregious questions and analyses around WFI’s favorite false story of electoral consequences of supporting Employee Free Choice.  (Spoiler: there aren’t any, despite WFI fanning those flames.)  Stay tuned!

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Michael Whitney

Michael Whitney

My name is Michael Whitney. I'm a progressive online organizer working with FDL Action. Rush Limbaugh called me "clueless" once. He went into rehab two days later.