Unions keep Barack on a short leash

Obama - The Unionizer-in-Chief

Noted economist and University of Maryland scholar John Lott says the election of Barack Obama as president would benefit labor unions even more than eight years of a Bill Clinton White House did.

As senior research scientist at the University of Maryland, Lott is examining the pro-union policies supported by Democratic presidential frontrunner Barack Obama, the junior senator from Illinois. "Even Bill Clinton wasn't near this strongly in the unions' pocket, so to speak, as you have with Barack Obama," the economist contends.

Lott notes Obama's opposition to education vouchers, votes against trade deals with U.S. allies, and desire to renegotiate NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement). But the best evidence, Lott says, of Obama's hyper-union stance is his support for the questionably-named "Employee Free Choice Act" - a proposal that would eliminate secret ballots by employees when unions are trying to enter a workplace.

"I think if you were going to go and tell people that we were going to stop having secret ballots, they would think you were joking," he suggests. "And that's because we think that there are very strong reasons to have secret ballots. Many people may wear lapel buttons for their candidate or put up yard signs, but a lot of people feel uncomfortable being public and outspoken about that. You may have issues of intimidation. You may also have issues of vote-buying," Lott explains.

Unions project they could add millions of members if they could eliminate secret ballots. But Lott believes many employees, out of fear, may reluctantly sign a public statement calling for a union.

"Right now, a worker may feel pressure from others to go and vote for the union, but not believe that it's in his interest to do it. [But with a secret ballot option] he can go and sign the public statement saying that he's for a union vote, but then vote differently once he's in the safety of the voting booth. That would no longer be an option for people because how they would vote would be public knowledge," Lott points out.

Currently, according to Lott, a union election is called for when more than 50 percent of employees sign a public petition supporting the idea. He says many workers realize that the higher wages that unions demand come at the expense of employees who lose their jobs as employers move to reduce their costs.


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