6/23/08

Card-check laws suppress voting rights

Union democracy sacrificed for union dues

In his June 10 column "Unions could benefit workers," John Buell absurdly attempts to spin the Employee Free Choice Act as pro-worker legislation when in fact it strips workers of a fundamental American right. In reality, this legislation would suppress the voting rights of workers across the country and subject those workers to coercion by union bosses.

The act would eliminate the secret ballot process now used to determine whether workers want to organize as a union, a process protected for decades by the National Labor Relations Board and enshrined in our democratic system of government from its very beginning.

Today, workers can organize into a union if a majority of those workers decide, through a private ballot vote, to do so. This process allows workers to vote their conscience in private without facing coercion or retribution from either union bosses or management. The Employee Free Choice Act would gut that process. Instead, workers would have to sign a card distributed by paid union organizers to determine whether or not to organize. This means that everyone can quickly determine who did or did not sign the card.

Coercive acts by union bosses and organizers are not uncommon. In fact, the National Institute for Labor Relations Research reports that incidents of union violence over the last 30 years have averaged nearly 300 per year. Consider Rod Carter, a UPS driver in Miami who in 1997 was stabbed with an ice pick by his fellow drivers for refusing to join a strike ordered by the Teamsters Local 769. Or the woman in Winchester, Va., who crossed a picket line of United Auto Workers Local 149 in 1996 to continue earning a paycheck from Abex Friction Products and found a severed cow’s head on the hood of her car.

Or Jeff Ward who in 2004, blocked the United Auto Workers from unionizing employees of the Thomas Built Bus Company because no private ballot vote took place, only to find flyers around the plant with his name, phone number, directions to his home and instructions that said: "Jeff Ward lives here. Go tell him how you really feel about the union."

Of course, not all unions or union members resort to such drastic actions. But, if behavior like this occurs now, what sort of coercion can we expect if workers lose their right to a private vote?

The Maine Legislature touched on this issue in June 2007, when a resolution was brought forth to encourage Congress to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. At the time, it was striking that any elected official would be in favor of the legislation. As Sen. Carol Weston pointed out in a statement, "Secret ballots are far too important to the unionizing process to eliminate with one fell swoop. I think it’s ridiculous for legislators elected by a secret ballot to work towards eliminating that process for others."

Which makes you wonder how Congressman (and U.S. Senate candidate) Tom Allen could have co-sponsored the legislation in Congress.

Workers’ right to unionize is protected, and the right to do so with a secret ballot should remain protected as well. The Employee Free Choice Act threatens that right and threatens to subject workers to intense coercion when handed their card to sign. Progress in the workplace won’t be achieved with strong-arming and intimidation. Mainers must stand up to this deceptive legislation and let the private ballot stand.

For information on the Employee Free Choice Act and how it threatens the voting rights of workers across the country, visit www.unionfacts.com.

- Doug Newman is member of the board of directors of the Maine chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors.

(bangornews.com)

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