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Big Labor's "Employee No-Choice Act" By: John N. Raudabaugh
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Grateful for Big Labor’s support in the 2006 elections, Congressional Democrats are racing through a bill this Thursday to take away secret ballot elections for workers choosing whether to unionize.  As a substitute, they have dreamed up a unionization method that allows union organizers to pressure or intimidate employees until they agree to support the union. 

But in their zeal to bolster union ranks using government force, union officials are not only failing to address their real problems, they are now putting business development, job growth, and investment in America at great risk.

The current debate over passage of the Orwellian-named “Employee Free Choice Act,” (H.R. 800) is an old one.  Big Labor wants to eliminate the union organizing campaign where all sides are heard before the election takes place.  Since workers are increasingly rejecting unions for a variety of reasons, union officials now want to do without representation elections.  They would rather mandate a process highly susceptible to coercion called “card check.”

During card check drives, union organizers approach workers at home and at work and try to get them to sign a card supporting the union.  If a majority of employees in a workplace can be “persuaded” to sign the card, the proposed legislation would force employers to recognize and bargain with union officials as the exclusive representative for all the employees. 

It should come as no surprise that workers targeted in card check drives have come forward with testimony about harassment, threats, and deception by such organizers.  Meanwhile, Ricardo Torres, a former union organizer, submitted some disturbing testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives in recent weeks.  

Testifying that he quit his job as an organizer for the Steelworkers union after a union official asked him “to threaten migrant workers by telling them they would be reported to federal immigration officials if they refused to sign” cards, Torres revealed many other union tactics used during card-check campaigns.  “We took steps to develop detailed bios on every worker and used this information in pressuring them into supporting the union.  Union organizers tried to learn as much personal information about the targeted workers as possible, such as their friends, hobbies, and habits. … Visits to the homes of employees who didn’t support the union were used to frustrate them and put them in fear of what might happen to them, their family, or homes if they didn’t change their minds about the union.”

Even if the typical employee only experiences badgering by union organizers, the secret ballot is the best, fairest way to measure his feelings on the subject of unionization.

Union spokespeople have long argued that the employer should have no right to comment or be involved in whether the employee chooses to be represented by a union.  This notion is as absurd as a potential investor listening only to the company on whether to buy company stock.  Where does the employee hear "the rest of the story" on the merits of unionization?

Of course, there are negatives as well as positives in any choice.  Sadly, in the public debate over card-check vs. secret ballot, the main point is being missed.  The mechanism for selection is not the basis of the unions' problems.  And rigging the game to unionize more employees is the wrong solution.

The secret ballot is the epitome of freedom to choose - it is not your business nor your right to know another’s choice.  Rather, if the focused campaign period between the start of union organizing and the moment of choice is actually rife with employer overreaching, intimidation, and coercion as union spokespeople allege, then let us reexamine and correct those issues.  But one thing is for sure. The in-your-face card-check process throws open the door wide to union intimidation. 

It is inconceivable that any citizen would consider doing away with the secret ballot.  It’s even more diabolical to do it under a banner of increasing democracy.   Workers should have the freedom to be informed about the ramifications of each option – union or no union.   If few employees wish to join unions, then unions should improve what they have to offer and stop lobbying politicians to solve their problems.   

As if the assault on the freedom to choose is not outrageous enough, the pending legislation also further undermines the freedom to contract. Included in the diabolically named legislation is something called “mandatory interest arbitration” for first contracts. 

This horrendous provision could force newly unionized employers into contract terms to which they never agreed. as Arbitrator-imposed contracts could require funding of insolvent or corrupt union pension plans, elimination of operational flexibility to compete in global markets through restrictions on outsourcing, union participation on company boards, or imposing uncompetitive wages and benefits.  Ramming uneconomic contracts down the throats of employers will no doubt accelerate job loss, reduce foreign and domestic investment, and ultimately eliminate whole sectors of America’s economy.

H.R. 800 is nothing more than a package of union special privileges intended to impose more unions on workers and employers.  The Democrats and their union patrons seem hell bent on trampling employees’ freedom to choose without an interested party looming over workers as they make their choice.

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John N. Raudabaugh is a nationally recognized labor and employment attorney and was a member of the National Labor Relations Board, 1990-1993.


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