• Secret Workplace Ballot Deserves Preservation
  • January 16, 2009 | Author: Mark A. Carter
  • Law Firm: Dinsmore & Shohl LLP - Charleston Office
  • If you support a secret ballot election when voting in the congressional elections, you need not allow Congress to throw out the secret ballot election when it's your turn to vote in the workplace.

    When we go to the polls we vote by "secret ballot." We vote in this way to "ensure the voter records a sincere choice by forestalling attempts to influence the voter by intimidation or bribery."

    Today, Congress is working to remove the secret ballot from elections in the workplace to determine whether workers wish to join unions. The "card check" bill, ironically titled the Employee Free Choice Act, would effectively accomplish three things:

    1. deny American workers their current right of a secret ballot election when their workplace is being organized by a labor union;
    2. empower arbitrators to force a union contract of their own construction on employers and employees; and
    3. impose increased damages on employers.

    Why would Congress want to pass such a law? In short, because organized labor wants it to.

    John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, told The Wall Street Journal that "it is the most important issue we have."

    Union membership has declined to 7.5 percent of the private-sector work force, and labor is desperate to increase its ranks. Labor spent more than $400 million on the recent elections, and it now has called upon President-elect Barack Obama to press the passage of the act within the first 100 days of his administration. Despite the fact that both Mr. Obama and Sweeney were entitled to have their elections result from secret balloting, they both desire to deprive the American worker of a future safeguarded by one.

    The unions have put forth testimony in Congress claiming that without the card check legislation, the country will be subject to "both a human rights crisis and an economic problem that puts the squeeze on the middle class."

    Bob Geiger blames those objecting to the bill, writing that they are "really hoping that they can scare the hell out of working Americans by implying that this bill will actually result in (workers) losing rights -- if not being dragged outside and beaten senseless by fictional union thugs -- they are, of course, lying through their capped teeth."

    Fictional union thugs intimidating workers?

    The National Labor Relations Board, the nation's chief tribunal dedicated to sorting out union/management conflicts, found as fact in 2007 that: a) card check elections "are inferior to the election process" of the NLRB, which is supervised by neutral government employees; b) that union card-solicitation campaigns have been marred by misinformation about the purpose of a card or the consequences of signing one; c) cards authorizing unions can be kept for months and may not reflect the true desires of the employee at the time the ballots are counted as in a secret ballot election; and d) yes, Mr. Geiger, employees frequently sign cards to get pro-union employees or organizers "off their back," and there are "improper electioneering tactics." That means coercion.

    But if this bill is the will of the people and there is a groundswell of support from the American worker, should the Congress be silent? In a republic, our legislators should certainly pay attention to the will of the people. What do they say?

    The Coalition For A Democratic Workforce conducted a poll in 2007 that found that 87 percent of union and nonunion households want to keep the secret ballot process. In union households, 79 percent supported secret ballot elections.

    Who is lying through their capped teeth now?

    And even if the Congress is being duped into believing that "secret ballot" elections are undemocratic, coercive and spinning the nation into a moral and economic crisis (a notion that even 1972 Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern has dismissed) what can we do about it anyway?

    There is too much at stake to be complacent.

    While the president-elect is a supporter and co-sponsor of the card check bill, he will not have a "filibuster-proof" Senate. That increases the likelihood of a compromise between the senators supporting and those opposed to the act.

    Horse trading with the components of this bill, however, is sort of like trying to determine what is worse for your health: arsenic or strychnine? In one case, you, as an employee, are not subjected to having Mr. Geiger's fictional thugs show up at your door with an offer you can't refuse, but you still may have a federal arbitrator impose on your employer a "contract" that it did not agree to and your co-workers did not ratify. Such contracts can lead to pink slips, and what's the use of a swell collective-bargaining agreement when the jobs move to sunny Mexico.

    It's literally like picking your own poison.

    If you support a secret ballot election when voting in the congressional elections, you need not allow Congress to throw out the secret ballot election when it's your turn to vote in the workplace. At the urging of organized labor, Congress is considering purposefully supplementing coercion into union elections by denying the secret ballot. Perhaps what congressmen really need to know is that the ultimate use of the employee's secret ballot could be voting them out.