February 14, 2007
POLITICS: Voter Intimidation
Republicans, for some time now, have been pushing for fairly tame measures to prevent voter fraud, most of which revolve around requiring voters to show some form of identification and otherwise leave a record that enables a determination of who, precisely, voted. In response to these common-sense proposals and other efforts to assure the integrity of the ballot, Democrats invariably complain that Republicans are engaging in some form of voter intimidation. Apparently, according to Democrats, even the mere act of having to properly identify yourself is so intimidating as to inhibit the right to vote.
Well. Now that the Democrats are in the majority, they are hard at work on legislation in another election context that will go far beyond mere identification, and eliminate secret ballots entirely, allowing voters to be pressured, even by their co-workers and in their own homes, to vote a specific way. The legislation, involving union elections, involves a practice called "card check," and it will be the subject of a bill markup today in the House.
UPDATE: Vice President Cheney says President Bush will veto the card check bill.
Our labor organizing laws are based on the simple and fair assumption that there are rational reasons why workers want to join unions and rational reasons why they don't want to join unions, and therefore workers should be given a free choice before locking themselves into a structure of compulsory union dues and mandatory collective bargaining.
But H.R. 800, the ""Employee Free Choice Act," would change the way union organizers can form a union. Pat Cleary of the National Association of Manufacturers explains:
Under current law, a union seeking to represent a group of workers needs to gather signed authorization cards (known simply as "A" cards) from 30% of the employees. Once they do, they can go to a federal agency, the National Labor Relations Board, and petition to have a secret ballot election among those employees. If the union gets a majority of employees to vote "yes," they win. The process of gathering "A" cards, as you might imagine, is not entirely free of coercion. The union visits employees face-to-face, often at their homes and -- how best to put this? -- urges them to sign the cards. Not surprisingly, in the sanctuary of a secret ballot, some percentage of employees who were persuaded by the union to sign "A" cards decide to vote against the union. Imagine that.
The bill provides that if the union collects cards from 50%+1 of the employee group, they simply bypass the secret ballot election process and -- bingo! -- the union wins.
Now, there's a couple of problems with the card check system. One is its asymmetry: the bill doesn't provide a similar system for decertifying a union. A second is that a card check campaign may deprive employees of the opportunity to hear from both sides, if a campaign is organized before the company has the opportunity to present its side of the story. A third is the flip side of that problem - card check campaigns can actually drag on much longer than secret ballot elections, potentially exposing workers to more abuses from those employers who use abusive and illegal union-busting tactics.
But some of these are minor quibbles compared to the staggering hypocrisy of the Democratic supporters of this bill in eradicating employees' right to a secret ballot. Remember this: any Democrat who votes in favor of a "card check" system, in which union organizers are looking right over the voter's shoulder, should absolutely never be taken seriously again in arguing that far less intrusive efforts to simply identify voters who cast secret ballots in the privacy of a voting booth is somehow "voter intimidation."
i called my congressmen about this last week, considering that their names are kerry, kennedy, and markey, i doubt i will have much of an impact.
Brendan I truly understand where you are coming from. My Senators are Boxer and Feinstein, but since I live in the Third Congressional District, my Congressman thankfully is Dan Lungren. I will contact him and press the R's to at least call the D's on their latest batch of hypocrisy. Once again, a spine test. Do you think the R's can find one?
Let's face it, there was a time in this ocuntry that unions were a necessary thing. They helped stop worker abuse. Today the advantages of unions have been addressed with laws that protect all workers. Now unions provide additional strain on the companies that employee union labor, take money from the workers and do little to support or protect a "good" employee. What they do is make it difficult for an employer to get rid a a "bad" employee. The UAW is a perfect example of this. They are well on their way to killing the US auto industry. Case in point 13,000 workers in the auto industry lost their jobs today.
I agree with madirishman. The union movement has done such a strong job in the past that the issues on which they were founded are now supported by law and the union in many cases is redundent.
Yeah, thank the ghost of Milton Friedman that we don't need unions anymore, my fellow man of Eire.
Take coal mines: the mines are almost all nonunion now, but that's okay because the former mine industry executives appointed by Pres. Bush to run the Mine Safety and Health Admininistration surely are taking a tough line on safety, right? As our president might say, they're doing a heck of a job! There has been a huge spike in mine deaths (47 in 2006 alone, starting with Sago Mine) and each investigation has shown that safety oversight has become a toothless joke. But who needs a union when you can trust in K Street-run government?
Regarding union auto workers, it's too bad they didn't follow the textile workers, who mostly stayed nonunion. Everyone knows that as a result our Wal-Marts and Targets are still jammed with Made in the USA clothes and shoes, right?
Well, I'm not arguing that unions are necessarily all bad, but do you really think that Wal-Mart would buy more American-made clothing if US textile workers were unionized? How exactly would that make the business more competitive?
No, I'm arguing that economic globalization is far more powerful than any union, and saying that Ford is struggling proves that "unions are killing the US auto industry" is a lazy oversimplification. Plenty of US industries that have always been nonunion have seen their jobs move overseas (textiles, call centers, etc.). As corporations transcend nation-states and become multinational, they become less accountable to any government or court. Unions are more important than ever as an independent counterbalance. That was true in Gdansk in 1981 and it's true in factories and offices around the world today.