Employee Free Choice Act Preserves Secret Ballot, Supporters Say

Contrary to an expensive ad campaign by corporate lobbyists, US labor law already allows for either a card check or secret ballot process to decide on unionization, Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, told MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, March 9th.

Currently, federal law gives employers rather than workers the right to choose the process by which they will join a union. Employers usually force employees to use the secret ballot.

On her March 9th show, Rachel Maddow described why corporations typically prefer this option over card check. 'I don't mean to cast aspersions,' she said, 'but there is a whole industry that has sprung up to help companies make the whole union or no union election process really intimidating for the workers.'

'If the Employee Free Choice Act passed, the employees would get to decide what they wanted to do,' Maddow added. 'They would get to decide whether they wanted to use a secret ballot election, or if they wanted to allow employees to just sign cards instead, cards saying whether or not they wanted to join. If a majority of workers signed the card, they'd get a union.'

Andy Stern added that if you don't believe that employers get hostile at the idea of a union, go right now into your bosses office and tell him or her that you are planning to organize one.

'All of sudden the bell will ring,' Stern said, 'and all of these anti-union consultants will arrive. All of a sudden, you will have these very special one-on-one meetings with your supervisor to tell you how this is really a bad idea.'

Recent surveys have revealed that 30 percent of workers who express support for a union in their workplace are simply fired – illegally. More than 90 percent of employers hold mandatory anti-union 'captive audience' meetings for employees to pressure them to oppose a union. This measure is also illegal.

Despite their illegality, employers are rarely punished for using these tactics to harass or pressure workers into opposing a union. Currently, the harshest penalty an employer faces for illegally harassing or firing pro-union workers is to post a notice saying that what they did was wrong. Perhaps, in a few years, a judge might require them to compensate the illegally treated workers. Nothing more.

The Employee Free Choice Act would create stiffer penalties for violating the law in these ways. It would also eliminate federal red tape that allows employers to delay the process of certifying a union for years, a cost to taxpayers that mounts into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Obama administration has expressed strong support for the bill, arguing that unionization will help boost wages, benefits and job security. This, in turn, would promote demand and create conditions for economic growth.

Business associations like the National Association of Manufacturers and the US Chamber of Commerce, along with a host of right-wing think takes and front groups (like the Center for Union Facts) oppose the bill. They have spent hundreds of millions of dollars insisting falsely that the Employee Free Choice Act would take away the secret ballot process. Many Republicans members of Congress have rested their opposition to the bill on this false claim.

As Maddow and the members of Congress who authored or sponsored the bill have noted, the law would give workers the choice about how they would form or join a union, including whether or not to use a secret ballot process.

The Employee Free Choice Act is expected to be introduced in Congress this week. It passed by a large bipartisan majority in 2007, but was held up in the Senate by a Republican filibuster.

See the video here: