Unions haven’t given up trying to get rid of secret ballot organizing elections-and their efforts bode ill for U.S. manufacturers.
The unions haven’t given up trying to get rid of secret ballot organizing elections. The latest effort to reshape organizing law is being mounted at the state level. According toThe Wall Street Journal, legislators in Oregon passed the deceptively named Worker Freedom Act, which prohibits companies from holding mandatory employee meetings to talk about organizing.
The bill was signed into law in June but doesn’t take effect until January. Oregon business groups say that this state law would violate employers’ rights and should be pre-empted by federal law. “It completely undermines employer speech,” says J.L. Wilson, the vice president of government affairs for Associated Oregon Industries, a Salem-based trade group. The organization is planning to file a lawsuit to challenge the law in U.S. District Court in Oregon.
Diane Rosenbaum, a Democratic Oregon state senator and chief sponsor of the law, denies it was payback for labor’s political support, and she believes it will survive a legal challenge. “What this bill says is you can hold these meetings. You just can’t force people to attend,” she says. “We worked hard with legislative counsel to make sure it will hold up.”
The Wall Street Journal reports that Oregon is the only state to pass such a law so far, but it is considered a test case, with developments closely watched by national business groups and state-level labor leaders around the country. Both sides see the Oregon law as a local variation of the Employee Free Choice Act, also known as card check, which offers unions an end-run around current organizing law. Card check would allow unions to organize workers without a secret-ballot election simply by “convincing” a majority to sign cards.
Another chapter in unions vs. secret ballots is a blatant attempt to defeat 75 years of labor policy. The National Mediation Board (NMB), which oversees labor relations in the air and rail industry, plans to stack the deck for organized labor in union elections. The Wall Street Journal reports that under a proposed rule, unions would no longer have to get the approval of a majority of airline workers to achieve certification. Instead, a union could win just by getting a majority of the employees who vote. Thus, if only 1,000 of 10,000 flight attendants vote in a union election, and 501 vote for certification, the other 9,499 become unionized. This radical break with precedent is the handiwork of President Obama’s appointees to the three-member board: Harry Hoglander, once president of a pilots union, and Linda Puchala, former president of the Association of Flight Attendants.
The request for this proposed rule came from the AFL-CIO, and was inspired by Delta’s acquisition of Northwest. Northwest was largely unionized but Delta wasn’t. The unions are now struggling to win the required new elections, and they want the NMB to manipulate the rules in their favor. Without a hearing or invitation for preliminary views, the Obama duo drafted the AFL-CIO demand and published it in the Federal Register. It’s now subject to a 60-day comment period, after which Puchala and Hoglander will no doubt vote to inflict it on all the nation’s airline and rail carriers.
Both of these are obviously ploys to sneak the deceptively named Employee Free Choice Act in the backdoor. If unions are truly beneficial for all employees, there should be no need to rig the system. If employees feel the need for a union, they will use the secret ballot to vote for the union and neither employers or union officials will know who voted for and who against.
This sort of legislative action bodes ill for all manufacturers and can only be detrimental to America’s recovery from the current economic recession. The ability to anonymously cast a secret ballot is the foundation of liberty and freedom in America. Any attempt to take this away from American citizens for union organizing or any other purpose is a grab for power and control based on greed.
Unions vs. Secret Ballots
By Don Hegland
Editorial Director Emeritus