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No choice in Free Choice Act
**Read the Comments at the bottom to get the
"Rest of the story"

ggarvin@miamiherald.com

If 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 carmakers.

 

Now... Discussion

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Labored wrote on 03/11/2009 11:02:48 PM:
 

The thought of employers concerned about the rights of employees is amusing. They fought against regulating child labor, the minimum wage, overtime, and equal pay for equal work.

They want elections so they can have the time needed to stop unionization. They hire experts to work their magic. Here's Martin Levitt in his tell-all book, Confessions of a Union Buster: “Union busting is a field populated by bullies and built on deceit. A campaign against a union is an assault on individuals and a war on the truth. As such, it is a war without honor. The only way to bust a union is to lie, distort, manipulate, threaten, and always, always attack.”

Anger about the Act is about maintaining employer power in the workplace...just as it was when employers fought unions in the past. Same song; different verse.

 
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olfart wrote on 03/10/2009 08:04:53 PM:
 

I may be just a country boy, but I recognize "bull" when I see it. $75 per hour? Bull!

 
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thutch24 wrote on 03/10/2009 04:13:43 PM:
 

The only choice that will be eliminated is the choice of EMPLOYERS to demand a secret ballot election, in which they then turn around and intimidate employees. This bill hands the choice between secret ballot vs. majority sign up to the employee, as it should be! God forbid working class people maximize their value by collectively bargaining for better wages, work conditions, etc. Workers wages are out of control! LOL!

 
 
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Jeffrey wrote on 03/10/2009 01:58:27 PM:
 

If a manufacturer or retailer were to use tactics of intimidation like requiring employees to attend mandatory meetings at which all the ills and none of the benefits of unionism were outlined, then, of course, those workers would be compelled to vote down a union, or risk losing their jobs.
People should have the right to unionize. If the newspaper for which Mr. Garvin writes was unionized, workers would have a voice in whether they could keep their jobs if concessions of contracted benefits were to be introduced.

 

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 wrote on 03/10/2009 11:15:14 AM:
 

Golly! I think it is heartwarming that Mr. Garvin has such a deep seated concern for the privacy of the American worker. You don't usually see this kind of civic mindedness these days! I have an idea. How about making the "card check" anonymous, that way nobody's privacy is violated. Here is how it would work; workers, at their leisure would sign up for the union and get a card, hush hush if they like. When more than fifty percent of the employees of an establishment held cards, by the union's count an independent accounting firm would be contracted to ensure everything is on the up and up, and representation would begin. I mean this does not have the flair of American citizens boldly taking their country back from the entrenched powers, but it would get the job done and allay Mr. Garvin's fears for the "worker's" rights.

 
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wrote on 03/10/2009 11:15:00 AM:
 

First of all, I'm for secret ballots, but I don't know the details of this bill and I hesitate to take the word of the media about whether confidential voting is not allowed under this bill. Second of all, the figure of autoworkers making $73 an hour is a total falsehood. They make pretty much what workers at foreign auto plants make. It's their legacy pension costs that are higher and that is being addressed. The cost of labor at the big three is approximately 10% of the vehicle. Cutting wages by a whopping 20% would only save them about %2 but the repubs love to bash the unions so it's all the unions fault that they're failing, and not poor design, lousy management, and bad financial decisions.

 
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brookeweber wrote on 03/10/2009 09:24:23 AM:
 

What you are saying is incorrect. The Employee Free Choice Act gives the employees the choice (hence the name) of secret ballot or card check procedure.
You really should get all the facts before you write these negative things that people will believe without checking out themselves.