10/29/08

Obama to ban secret ballot union elections

Related video: "Employee Forced Choice Act"
More EFCA stories: hereMore card-check stories: here

Anti-Democratic Democrats have sold their birthright to organized labor thugs

One of our most cherished rights as Americans is the ability to vote, freely and without intimidation. A bill pending in Congress would deny that franchise to an important segment of our population, rank and file workers. It's an issue before the candidates for the U.S. Senate in Virginia this fall. One has taken a stand. The other has not and should.

The legislation is formally called "the Employee Free Choice Act" or EFCA. A key provision is a change in the way unions are formed and recognized. Instead of a private election with a secret ballot overseen by an impartial federal board, union organizers would only need to gather signatures from more than half of the employees in a workplace or bargaining unit. This system is known as "card check."

There would be no election and no opportunity for both parties in this critical decision to make their case with the rank and file. Before many workers realize what they had signed, they would be paying dues to a union they know little about and praying their jobs and futures will be secure.

This is not democracy, and neither liberals nor conservatives should support this kind of intrusion into our plants, factories and stores.

We can all acknowledge that unions deserve some credit for the rise of the middle class and for laws that have protected workers from abuse. This is not 1920, though. Enlightened management and progressive legislators have improved the lot for employees and are doing more every day. Further, employers have an obligation to make them aware of both the costs and benefits of union membership, but they would be denied that opportunity under the EFCA.

Former Gov. Jim Gilmore, who is running for the U.S. Senate in Virginia, has said he would vote against the EFCA if elected on Nov. 4. In an editorial in the Harrisonburg press recently, however, it was clear that his opponent, Democrat and former Gov. Mark Warner, has not taken a position. To quote from the piece, "Asked no less than three times this past Friday during a question and answer session at the Winchester Star whether he would vote 'yes' or 'no' on this undemocratic bill, Mr. Warner ... wiggled and danced and gave explanations for his wiggling and dancing, but never did answer the question."

Given his party's close alliance with labor, it's understandable that Warner is having a hard time making up his mind. Standing up for the rights of workers, however, is not a partisan issue. In fact, former U.S. senator and 1972 Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern penned an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal in August titled "My Party Should Respect Secret Union Ballots." In it, he states: "To my friends supporting EFCA, I say this: We cannot be a party that strips working Americans of the right to a secret-ballot election. We are the party that has always defended the rights of the working class. To fail to ensure the right to vote free of ... coercion from all sides would be a betrayal of what we have always championed."

By raising the question of card check at this time, the Virginia State Chamber of Commerce is not taking sides in the November election. We have great admiration for Warner and appreciate his struggle to make a choice that will not hurt him politically, either in this election or a future one for national office. The principle, though, is clear. As McGovern says, "Being a good steward of democracy means telling our friends 'no' when they press for a course that in the long run may weaken labor and disrupt a tried and trusted method for conducting honest elections."

This is a time when both Democrats and Republicans should state unequivocally that they will not deny workers a right to vote, just to sustain unions and their dues-fed treasuries. In the days left before the election, citizens in Hampton Roads and throughout the commonwealth should press candidates for the Senate and House of Representatives to state their positions on the EFCA and remind them that the ballot box is a sacred feature of American democracy, whether it's at a polling precinct on Election Day or at work sites across the commonwealth of Virginia every other day of the year.

- Hugh Keogh is president and CEO of the Virginia State Chamber of Commerce.

(dailypress.com)

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