Card Check: Making the Case to Senators

By May 9, 2007Labor Unions

Time to note the flurry of activity and commentary on the audaciously named Employee Free Choice Act. Let’s start with the commentary, a sharp take-down on the Trentonian’s editorial page of the claims that eliminating secret ballots is somehow democratic:

In a recent piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Charles Wowkanech, New Jersey AFL-CIO president, contended that authorization cards, or “majority sign-ups,” could eliminate the “contentious” atmosphere that secret-ballot unionization elections tend create. But the same could be said for any secret-ballot election, whether for local councilman or president of the United States. Contentiousness is what you get with democracy, and democracy is more than worth the price of it, in the workplace and beyond.

Wowkanech raises the specter of management intimidation and coercion.But the specter of intimidation and coercion is the strength of the secret ballot and weakness of authorization-card sign-up. In the inviolable privacy of the voting booth, no intimidation is possible. But given the unsavory records of not a few unions, with card sign-ups intimidation and coercion are not only possible, but likely.

Meanwhile, the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace has started running radio ads in Nebraska and Arkansas urging Democratic Senators Ben Nelson and Mark Pryor, respectively, to support private ballots by opposing the “card check” legislation. Neither of the two co-sponsored the legislation, S. 1041, a blow to organized labor who had hoped to sign on all the Democratic senators.

“Our coalition plans to hold Senators accountable for their vote and educate them with the facts,” stated CDW spokesman Todd Harris. “Senators who vote to protect private ballots are voting with their constituents and fighting against legalized coercion and intimidation of workers. We urge Senators to join the fight and stand up for workers’ rights.”

You can read the Coalition’s .pdf news release here, and you can listen to the ads on this page. The Coalition is also running spots in Maine thanking Senator Susan Collins for coming down in support of the protections of a private ballot. The Hill has a story on the campaign here.

Finally, labor attorney Richard Hankins at EFCAUpdates has turned up his blogging knob to 11 this week with several good posts, including this one, analyzing a Chronicle of Higher Education column by Peter Dreier, a professor of politics at Occidental College and founder of Progressive Los Angeles Network (PLAN), a think tank. Dreier is pushing increased unionization via the Employee Free Choice Act as a cure to all sorts of social ills, that is, social ills as defined by the collectivist left, as Richard notes. Dreier:

The labor movement is still the most effective political force for electing liberal candidates at the local, state, and federal levels. And once in office, pro-labor politicians are typically the strongest supporters of the environment; the civil rights of women, homosexuals, and minority groups; universal health insurance; Social Security; affordable housing; and funds for public schools and higher education. A strong labor movement thus benefits other agendas and causes that have been under attack by conservative forces in recent years.

Wow. Amazing what you can accomplish by doing away with secret ballots.

UPDATE (4:20 p.m.): George Leef of the Pope Center comments on the Dreier column:

Forcing workers to accept union representation they may not want and pay dues that can be used for purposes they don’t agree with is profoundly authoritarian. (The vexed issue of worker free speech rights is covered in my book Free Choice for Workers.)

Americans have free choice in religion. They can attend and support any church or no church and change their minds at any time. Free choice with regard to labor unions would look the same way. Unfortunately, that isn’t what the people who claim to be interested in the rights of workers want.

UPDATE (May 10, 4:45 p.m.): Should have noted Dreier’s co-author. It is Kelly Candaele, a trustee of the Los Angeles Community College District, and film documentarian. Full piece is available here.