Secret ballot elections are the hallmark of democracy. This process has withstood the test of time not only because of its legitimacy, but because it has signified the democratic principles our country was founded upon: personal freedom and choice. What has worked so well in regular elections in our country has worked equally as well when workers decide whether or not they would like to affiliate with a union. The secret ballot has given workers a level of protection from intimidation when they choose whether or not to be represented by a union.
Unfortunately, some members of Congress want to change that.
Right now, the U.S. Senate is poised to pass legislation taking away private ballot elections in the workplace. The legislation has already passed the House of Representatives, so the Senate—and a likely presidential veto—are the only barriers to stopping the so-called “Employee Free Choice Act.”Free choice? Hardly.
The proposed legislation would replace a federally supervised election process with a very public “card check” system. Union organizers would go from one individual to the next, collecting signatures until they reach 50 percent plus one. Once that number has been reached, the union is recognized without a secret ballot election.
In many instances, intense peer pressure and perhaps downright intimidation will be brought to bear on workers who do not wish to be represented by a union. Imagine how a voter would feel if he or she could be pressured by someone to check off their vote on an absentee ballot and place it in the hands of a candidate’s organizer to turn it in to the elections office. The card check system is very similar in scope.
Under current law, there is a clear process to follow if a union wants to organize within a business, a process with checks and balances to ensure fair play and honest results. A union first must collect signatures on a representation card from 30 percent plus one of the employees. At that point, both the union and employer have the right to request a federally supervised election, administered by the National Labor Relations Board.
Well established guidelines must be followed in such an election, guidelines that ensure that workers cannot be coerced by either side in the process. The result is an election that allows the workers to make the choice, privately, without union organizers looking over their shoulders.
The motivation for this legislation isn’t because the current system doesn’t work. Instead, it has to do with the fact that unions aren’t as successful in organizing attempts as they would like to be. For decades now, the rate of unionization in the private sector has been in a steady decline.
There are many documented reasons for this, and they have little to do with how organizing elections are conducted. The “card check” system is a desperate attempt by the unions to stack the deck in elections in order to reverse the dismal trend they have suffered in organizing new members. It is a bald power play, and it should be defeated.
Louisiana’s two U.S. Senators will soon cast very important votes on this key issue. Poll after poll has shown that the voters in Louisiana support the right of workers to freely choose whether or not they want to be in a union.
The “card check” legislation flies in the face of that freedom to choose.
Both Senators Landrieu and Vitter should protect the secret ballot system in union organizing elections and cast a clear vote against this legislation.