The DFL Party in Minnesota, feigning outrage that someone would express disagreement with their candidates’ support of the Employee Free Choice Act, tried to punish and prevent the speech rather than argue against it. Indicative of the mindset that would destroy the secret ballot, don’t you think?
The DFL filed a formal complaint with the Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings against the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, among others, for running TV ads about card check legislation and the positions of Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) and his opponent, Democrat Al Franken. Under state law, it is a gross misdemeanor to run an a false add with reckless disregard of its falsehood. (211B.06 FALSE POLITICAL AND CAMPAIGN MATERIAL; PENALTY; EXCEPTIONS)
The ad’s supposed offense was to claim that by supporting the card check bill, “Franken says eliminate the secret ballot for workers.” Also objected to was the announcer’s statement: “Call Al Franken. Tell him he’s wrong to end worker privacy.”
After an initial go-around and appeal, Administrative Law Judge Barbara L. Neilson has now ruled against the DFL. In her order, she writes:
The statement that Mr. Franken wants to eliminate the secret ballot is not factually false, since the EFCA will eliminate the secret ballot vote for union organizing elections where a majority of employees sign union authorization cards.
Because Mr. Franken supports the EFCA, the statement, “Franken says eliminate the secret ballot for workers,” is not false. It may be misleading and it certainly is incomplete, but it is not false within the meaning of § 211B.06. Similarly, the second statement is not factually false. Because the EFCA will eliminate private ballot elections in certain circumstances, it is not untruthful to characterize the bill’s effect as “end[ing] worker privacy.” Section 211B.06 does not regulate unfavorable deductions, inferences, unfair characterizations or misleading remarks.35 As with the first statement, this statement is not “false” under the statute.
Beyond that, we’ll assert that the statements were true. There would be little point to the Employee Free Choice Act if it were to NOT eliminate the secret ballot. Only through the public collection of signatures on union representation cards, with the associated peer pressure and intimidation, can organized labor achieve its goal — forcing employees into a union against their will.
We wrote “feigning outrage” above when describing the DFL’s legal attack against free speech, in so far as the party and its union allies recognized the standard to strike down the ad is extremely high. (It’s the “reckless disregard” standard that applies in libel suits by public officials, going back to Times v. Sullivan.) So why did they do it?
They were cynically engaging in intimidation. Pressure. Any tool in their toolbox to silence opposition.
Intimidation. Pressure. And the same tactics will be used against individual employees when union organizers ask them to join by signing a card.