Obama zeroes in on secret-ballot

Related video: "Employee Forced Choice Act"
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Editorial: Keep the private ballot

If you voted in the Nov. 4 election, you did so privately and secretly. That's the law. For more than two centuries, Americans have believed that important decisions involving politics ought to be made by secret ballot. It is one of our most cherished, important traditions.

For decades, federal law involving labor unions has abided by that tradition. But big unions want to change that. They want to know how workers vote when asked whether they want to be represented by a union.

Current law requires that if a union attempts to organize workers at a particular company, it must ask them to sign cards authorizing a referendum on the issue. The process of collecting signatures on authorization cards is done in public. If 30 percent of workers at a company sign the cards, the matter is put to a vote. Employees use secret ballots in referendums handled by the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB counts votes and, if more than 50 percent of workers ask for a union, one is certified.

Too often for the liking of union leaders, the card-signing process goes well but the secret ballot vote does not. Labor union leaders want to change that - and they have allies among the many members of Congress.

The chosen vehicle for change is a bill referred to dishonestly as the "Employee Free Choice Act." Far from guaranteeing free choice, it would, if enacted, ensure just the opposite. It stipulates that a union must be certified if more than 50 percent of its workers sign authorization cards. The secret ballot process is eliminated.

Related video: "Employee Forced Choice Act"

Already approved by the House of Representatives, the bill has been blocked in the Senate. But unions hope to revive it this year. If the bill is enacted, it will be the end of free choice about whether workers want to join unions. If the bill is approved in the Senate, it will mean the end of an important freedom - that of using the secret ballot on an issue of major importance to workers.

- The Editors


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