f consistency is
really the hobgoblin of little minds, then Hilda Solis and George Miller
must be America's top ghostbusters. They think the secret ballot is the
cornerstone of democracy, except for American workers deciding whether
to join a labor union.
Miller is the U.S. House's chief sponsor of the
Orwellianly named Employee Free Choice Act, a bill much-coveted by labor
unions that would do away with secret-ballot voting when they're trying
to organize a company workforce. And Solis, a former congresswoman from
Southern California who is President Barack Obama's newly confirmed
labor secretary, is EFCA's chief cheerleader.
Different rules for U.S.
Oddly enough, Miller and Solis used to think secret ballots were the
very lifeblood of democracy. In 2001, introducing himself as someone
''deeply concerned with international labor standards,'' Miller wrote
Mexican officials urging them to allow workers to vote on unionization
with secret ballots.
''The secret ballot is absolutely necessary in order to ensure that
workers are not intimidated into voting for a union they might not
otherwise choose,'' Miller wrote, adding that the practice ''will help
bring real democracy to the Mexican workplace.'' (The American
workplace, I guess, is quite another matter.)
If that's not hobgoblin-free enough for you, consider Solis, who was
in Miami last week promising labor leaders her full support for EFCA.
Poor Solis felt quite differently in 2007 when she and her allies were
losing a campaign for control of the congressional Hispanic Caucus. Back
then, she was bitterly demanding a secret ballot. ''It is
important that the integrity of [the caucus] be unquestioned and above
reproach,'' she wrote.
Miller and Solis, career politicians, have no trouble with the
ethical and logical contortions required to oppose secret ballots in a
country built on them. But I suspect the hobgoblins of most Americans
will be wailing like banshees before the EFCA fight is over.
Secret ballot should rule
Under U.S. law stretching back to the 1930s, workers decide if they
want to join a union by casting a secret ballot in a
government-monitored election. Organized labor and its Democratic Party
vassals want to change that to a so-called card check procedure; a union
would simply present signed cards from more than half the affected
workers, and poof! The union is in charge, no election muss or fuss.
But EFCA doesn't stop there. Once a union is certified, employers
have just 130 days -- a comparatively short time to put together a
contract from scratch -- to reach a collective bargaining agreement. If
there's no deal, in comes a federal mediator: in effect, a government
commissar in charge of wages and work rules.
Labor leaders say they need a new law governing elections because
they're losing membership. Unionization of private-sector employees,
which peaked at 35 percent in the mid-1950s, has dropped to less than a
quarter of that. But the decline hasn't come because unions are losing
elections -- they won two-thirds of them in the first six months of
2008. Union membership is falling because unionized industries are
dying, automating or fleeing overseas. That's not coincidental. When the
average UAW worker makes $73 an hour in wages and benefits, when UAW
contracts impose more than 5,000 pages of rules on how factories can
operate, both capital and consumers migrate toward nonunion Japanese