Euphemism: ‘Majority sign-up’

Color image of some people voting in some polling booths at a voting station.

ma·jor·i·ty sign-up (n.): While corporate C-suites are a rich source of euphemisms — think “right-sizing” instead of “job cuts” — the labor movement has produced some of its own. For instance, “majority sign-up,” an alternative to the more controversial “card check.”

Recently in The Intercept, writer Rachel M. Cohen argued that union organizers had missed two opportunities to expand labor’s influence in politics. One came in 2009, when a Democratic Congress failed to pass a measure called the Employee Free Choice Act. “Though EFCA tackled several areas, the provision that remains most memorable is ‘card check,’ which would have allowed workers to form a union once a majority signed pro-union cards. (Under existing law, there’s generally an election by secret ballot.) Cohen adds, “Labor organizers prefer the term ‘majority sign-up,’ but card check is what stuck.”

“Card check” sounds coercive, as if someone’s looking over an employee’s shoulder. “Majority sign-up” calls to mind an active, democratic choice by workers. But, perhaps fatefully, the latter phrase never took hold.