From today’s Detroit News, “Publicizing labor votes violates workers’ privacy”
UAW President Ron Gettelfinger crossed the line when he injected race into the debate over whether American workers should have the right to vote in private during union organizing elections (“Worker rights bill deserves debate, vote,” Feb. 6). By comparing opponents of the Employee Free Choice Act to the Southern senators who blocked civil rights legislation in the 1960s, Gettelfinger undermines his own credibility and does a disservice to the labor movement.
Let’s be clear about what the Employee Free Choice Act does. The bill would replace secret ballot elections with a card check scheme where the votes of workers would be made public to their employers, co-workers and union organizers.
Without the protection of the secret ballot, there would be no guarantee that workers could express their true wishes on the personal decision of whether to have a union in their workplace. Labor leaders want Congress to pass card check because the bill will make it easier for labor organizers to recruit workers into joining unions.
But the American people, including rank-and-file union members, understand the importance of the secret ballot and are opposed to the Employee Free Choice Act by overwhelming margins.
In a recent poll conducted for the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, 73 percent of union workers opposed the proposal. This helps explain why President Barack Obama has backed away from card check in recent weeks and why Gettelfinger is desperately playing the race card to defend it.
That’s right. The political support for the Employee Free Choice Act is weaker than advocates hoped for. (See this Hill article, “Contentious labor bill struggles behind the scenes“)
Besides being an odious line of argument, Gettelfinger’s rhetoric is also foolish in the big political picture. The UAW is a supplicant right now, asking members of Congress for help in supporting the domestic auto manufacturers. It’s not smart politics to be arguing, “Hey, you Senators! You unreconstructed Dixiecrat racists — Give us money!”
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