Paul Kersey at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy casts a well-warranted skeptical eye at the National Labor Relations Board’s inquiries about using electronic voting in union recognition elections. From “Federal Labor Board Sets Up Snap Union Elections“:
Years ago new NLRB appointee Craig Becker opined in a law review article that employers should have no right to speak on the topic of unionization, and one way to make that a reality would be to hold elections quickly and away from the workplace. And one way to do that would be through cyberspace. The NLRB has formally requested information from companies on internet voting, potentially a very troubling development depending on what the NLRB has in mind.
In the labor board’s defense, it should be noted that there is one legitimate use for internet voting in labor relations: occasionally a workforce will be widely dispersed, such as a group of installers or travelling salesmen, and it won’t be practical to set up a central voting location. Up to now these workers have been polled on unionization by mail, but voting over the internet might work as well and be cheaper to administer.
With that one exception though, the old-fashioned voting booth is clearly superior to voting by mail or by the web because NLRB officials can verify that votes are cast by eligible workers, in secrecy and without risk of coercion, and counted correctly. With voting by mail or by the internet, there is a real possibility that workers could be forced into voting while under surveillance or even by physical threats. It’s certainly within the realm of possibility that union (or company) operatives will lie in wait for workers, laptop ready, to coerce the desired vote.
The National Association of Manufacturers responded to the NLRB’s request for information in a July 1 letter available here. Excerpt:
Such changes to the election process would be a drastic deviation from current practice and run counter to the principles of fairness and balance inherent in our labor laws. We strongly urge the Board to maintain the integrity of the current NLRB-supervised union representation process and refrain from introducing new technologies that remove the necessary protections currently afforded to employees.
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