Millions of Americans are preparing to head to the polls this November. They will go behind the curtain, and in this private sanctuary, decide who they want to lead the United States. Here, the media rhetoric and political commentators can’t reach them, and intimidation doesn’t exist. Yet, after more than 100 years of the fundamental right to a private-ballot election, organized labor believes the nation must turn back the clock as a means to bolster its dwindling union rolls.
Today, a cornerstone of democracy faces attack in the U.S. Congress from a piece of legislation misnamed The Employee Free Choice Act. The so-called Employee Free Choice Act would take away a worker’s right to a federally supervised, private-ballot election when deciding whether to unionize. It would replace the private ballot with a biased and inferior process called "card check" that would allow a union to organize if a majority of workers simply sign an authorization card. Under this system, the workers’ votes are made public to the employer, union organizers and other employees.
According to a January 2007 poll conducted by the bi-partisan group McLaughlin & Associates, almost nine in 10 voters (87 percent) agree that "every worker should continue to have the right to a federally supervised secret-ballot election when deciding whether to organize a union." Then, why is the Democratic majority in Congress pushing to pass this legislation? With union membership in a steady decline since the 1980s, union bosses realize their only hope in replenishing their membership lies with the Democrats in Congress, to whose campaigns they donate millions of dollars to pass this legislation, making it easier for big labor to coerce the workforce into joining a union.
On March 1, the U.S. House of Representatives voted in support of the Employee Free Choice Act (H.R. 800) in a primarily party line vote. On June 26, the Senate failed (51 to 48) on the motion to stop debate and bring H.R. 800 to a vote. The Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), along with all other Democratic senators, voted in favor of this ill-named and ill-conceived legislation; Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) voted against this measure.
Even though the Senate blocked the Employee Free Choice Act in the 110th Congress, it is by no means dead in the water. It is high on the Democrats’ agenda for the 111th Congress. Bill co-sponsor Sen. Obama has said, "We will pass the Employee Free Choice Act. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when." Sen. McCain supports the rights of employees to vote for union representation using a private ballot and has declared he will veto any legislation taking away this right if elected president of the United States.
At a time when tremendous resources are used to foster, support and ensure free elections around the world, it makes no sense to roll back the clock on workplace elections by abolishing the federally protected private-ballot election.