Card Check: Abandon the Secret Ballot and Bad Things Happen

By March 20, 2009Economy, Labor Unions

So much news and commentary on the deceitful Employee Free Choice Act…

Stuart Taylor of the National Journal is always good, and he capably analyzes labor’s tendentious arguments for the legislation in “How To Deny Employees Free Choice.” A good summary for the uninitiated, and Taylor makes a point about the dynamics of recognition campaigns that unions want the public to ignore:

The complaints about employer propaganda during election campaigns are simply not persuasive. Anti-union propaganda is no less legitimate than pro-union propaganda. One person’s propaganda is another’s free speech. And the labor laws already address the risk of propaganda being tinged with intimidation by placing strict — perhaps unduly strict — limits on employer communications with employees.

Union organizers can approach employees in their homes, in bars, or anywhere else, without the employer’s knowledge, with visions of better wages, benefits, and working conditions. Employers, on the other hand, can approach employees only in the workplace, and cannot predict (“threaten”) that they will close up shop if the union wins — no matter how accurate the prediction might be.

Elsewhere, the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace — to which the NAM belongs — has highlighted the strange conception James Hoffa of the Teamsters has of democracy. Here’s a Coalition ad:


Blogging at National Review Online’s The Corner, Cesar Conda of Navigators Global, which does CDW communications strategy, observes:

Almost 20 years ago to the day, the Teamsters signed a landmark consent decree with the United States Justice Department to avoid prosecution on Mob-related corruption. The agreement required the Teamsters to institute secret-ballot voting for its president and other senior officers to rid the union of Mob influence. Given the Teamsters’ history with corruption, it is remarkable that James P. Hoffa, the union’s current president who himself has been elected three times by secret ballot, would dismiss the importance of secret-ballot voting to free and fair elections. But last week in a press statement applauding the introduction of the Employee Free Choice Act, he did just that when he asked “since when has the secret ballot been a basic tenet of democracy?”

I encourage those with an interest in the card-check debate to review the media’s coverage of the March 1989 settlement between the Teamsters and the Justice Department, and the subsequent coverage of the Teamsters’ first secret ballot presidential election in 1991. The secret-ballot reform was widely hailed by labor experts and editorial pages as a major breakthrough in the labor movement that would make the nation’s largest union more democratic and accountable to its rank and file members. At that time, Dennis Rivera, the head of the New York health-care workers union and the current chairman of the SEIU’s health-care task force, even suggested that federal labor law be changed to require secret-ballot elections of every labor leader in the country. 

The Wall Street Journal notes the bully-boy tactics another union, the SEIU, is employing against members of Congress who refuse to toe labor’s line. From “Unionize or Die“:

The video’s target is Oklahoma Rep. Dan Boren, a Democrat who recently declared that he’ll vote against labor’s top priority. The video concludes by calling for Mr. Boren by name to “stop risking workers’ lives” and support the bill. The political ad also serves as a warning to other Democrats in Congress — including Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas; Ben Nelson of Nebraska; Michael Bennet of Colorado; and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana — who haven’t declared how they’ll vote. The message is that if they don’t sign on the SEIU line, they’ll get roughed up, and perhaps face a primary challenge next election.

Propaganda, disparaging of secret-ballot elections, vicious politicking: It’s hard to take seriously labor’s claims to be representing the interests of the employees, any employees.

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