The Secret Ballot Destruction Act

The Secret Ballot Destruction Act

Bandow op ed in CNSNews.com
March 14, 2007

There was a time when American leftists actively promoted something called "economic democracy," which entailed giving employees a greater say over management decisions—not a particularly good way to run a business. Many Democrats moved away from such utopian schemes with the election of Bill Clinton as President. Yet the fantasy of running businesses like the government has never entirely disappeared on the Left.But there's one economic instance where most liberals don't like democracy: when workers decide if they want to unionize. On March 1, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would order companies to accept a union if labor organizers convince a majority of workers to sign a card, through a form of organizing known as "card check." The bill faces a tougher time in the Senate and a veto threat from President Bush, so expect Big Labor to go all-out in pushing this bill.The Nation magazine argues that, "Simple recognition when a majority of workers sign cards is a more democratic process" than holding an election. But that's like inaugurating a new president if his aides convince enough people to sign an endorsement petition.Despite union wailing, it isn't hard to organize if employees really want to: Uncle Sam mandates an election if just 30 percent of employees sign a petition. But Big Labor wants to make things easier for itself. Unions poured an estimated $104 million directly into the November elections to help Democrats take control of Congress. Far more, acknowledges union consultant Jon Tasini, is spent on indirect expenditures that need not be disclosed, such as issue ads and get-out-the-vote efforts.Organized labor expects a return on its investment. No proposal is more important for the unions than the misnamed "Employee Free Choice Act," which would substitute card check for elections, allowing unions to win legal recognition based on a preliminary, and very public, show of hands. If the government is going to be involved, it's hard to argue against a secret ballot election run by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for assessing worker sentiment. A recent Zogby poll found that union members themselves believed, by an 84 percent to 11 percent margin, that employees should be able to vote on union membership. The argument advanced publicly by organized labor for card check is that elections are unfair because of terrible employers who intimidate employees. In fact, the vast majority of representative elections are held within two months of a request. Moreover, a secret ballot makes employer intimidation—vote against the union or else!—impossible.Existing law already punishes companies that pressure or fire pro-union employees. The National Labor Relations Board has found that union organizers were illegally fired in fewer than 2 percent of cases that came before it. Organized labor loses almost as many elections as it wins because the majority of workers today say they don't want to join a union.Instead of seeking to enhance penalties that they claim are inadequate, unions say scrap the system—cancel elections and let us win. (Curiously, they don't advocate authorizing card check for employees seeking to drop a union.)The real reason organized labor wants card check is that elections don't guarantee the results that unions want—but that's the nature of elections. You can't always get what you want. For decades, labor organizers won only half the votes. Today, unions lose more than 40 percent of representation elections.To Big Labor, that means elections are ipso facto unfair. Obviously it doesn't make sense for labor activists to seek an election if workers vote "no" nearly as often as "yes." In contrast, the AFL-CIO says it wins 75 percent of card-check campaigns. This should come as no surprise. In which scenario is intimidation more likely: a secret ballot election overseen by the NLRB, or a union-run card check campaign in which union organizers can pressure employees into signing cards? As former union organizer Jennifer Jason recently told the House Education and Labor Committee: "From my experience, the number of cards signed appear to have little relationship to the ultimate vote count...The time allocated for the election to go forward allows the worker a chance to think through his or her own issues without undue influence thus avoiding an immediate, impulsive decision based on little or no fact."No wonder organized labor wants to eliminate employee elections. And today, the Democrats control Congress thank in part to union activists' help -- so it's no wonder House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has promised: "We're going to move on 'card check,' because now we set the agenda and that will be part of it." Economic freedom already is under attack on many fronts in the new Congress. No battle is more critical than that over card check legislation—more accurately called "The Secret Ballot Destruction Act."<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />