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AFL-CIO Prez Trumka on the Employee Free Choice Act aka “May I Fill the Card Out for You?”

Posted on February 3 2010 6:00 am
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Hey, don’t trouble yourself. Let me just sign that union card for you.

Richard Trumka, current president of the AFL-CIO, cares about you, the American Worker. He cares so much that he is going to stop those dirty employers from forcing you to have a secret ballot. Until I heard him speak, I never realized a secret ballot was a bad thing. Hmm. I have yet to find a real, common sense argument for abolishing a secret ballot. I don’t know about you, but this is one big, protective teddy bear I could do without.

The EFCA is the most important legislation the AFL-CIO president would like to shove down our throats this year, as they seek to expand their membership numbers. He discussed the necessity of it with Bill Moyers on the January 29th broadcast of “Bill Moyers Journal.” Trumka explained his position this way:

What an Employee Free Choice Act does is the following: It takes the choice of having a union away from the employer, which is where it is right now, and gives it to the employee. Under today’s circumstances, let’s say you have a unit of 100 people. And all 100 people say, “I want a union and I want it right now. I want it. I deserve it. I need it.” It’s the employer who says, “No, I’m not giving it to you. I demand a secret ballot.” What this does, it takes the choice out of the employer’s hand and puts it into the worker’s hands, who have the right.

I found it hard to finish my dinner when he explained how the evil employers are trying to squelch unions by insisting on a secret ballot for their employees. That’s what I get for watching union bosses on TV while eating.

Why did this give me indigestion, you may ask? Because I don’t think it has anything to do with enabling workers to vote for a union and everything to do with intimidation. I don’t think he has made a believable case for denying a secret ballot, but he does know it would benefit the unions to eliminate that option. This is the Chicago style leadership that I am hearing way too much of. It’s the cornerstone of his argument for the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA.)

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like an employee would feel a lot more secure casting a vote without a union thug looking over their shoulder as they filled out the card. Wouldn’t that be just a tad intimidating? Have you ever been to a meeting where someone calls for a show of hands? Maybe you didn’t agree with the topic at hand, but it sure was uncomfortable not to raise your hand with everyone looking at you, wasn’t it? How much more uncomfortable might you feel if it was a roomful of union thugs watching you vote? Ouch. I think I’d just hand them the pencil and be done with it. I have never heard a more undemocratic and ridiculous argument.

Opponents of the EFCA seem to feel the same way.

Voting by secret ballot is a fundamental principle of American democracy, and it’s time to guarantee this basic right for every American worker,” said Senator DeMint. “The Secret Ballot Protection Act is urgently needed to stop the growing attacks on workers’ rights. Unfortunately, current law does not guarantee a secret ballot; it can be waived by employers. Even worse, Democrats have teamed up with union bosses to completely eliminate secret ballot votes in the workplace, and instead impose a mandatory ‘card check.’ Under this undemocratic ‘card check’ system, workers are forced to sign cards in support of a union without a secret ballot election, which allows bullying and peer pressure to influence votes. ‘Card check’ is completely unacceptable and un-American, and we must pass the Secret Ballot Protection Act to safeguard workers’ rights for good.”

“Americans get a private ballot when they choose their President, their Congressmen, their local councilmen, even their PTA leaders — why should they not have the same right in the workplace?” said Senator Enzi. “Working Americans deserve to choose what’s right for themselves without fear, coercion or pressure, and without having to publicly disclose or defend their views to hostile coworkers or unions. The right to a private ballot is one of the cornerstones of our democracy, and the Secret Ballot Protection Act will uphold that right for America’s workers. I commend Senator DeMint and all co-sponsors of this bill for their efforts to protect workers from intimidation and preserve free, fair, and private elections.”

I am distrustful of a bill (and the people behind the bill) when it makes no common sense. I don’t see common sense alive and well in this bill, and certainly not in this part of it. If anything, it is responsible for an employer to insist his/her employees have the right to vote secretly and to be informed of other options. Doing it any other way is obviously manipulative.

Finally, I question the urgency of this bill and its’ supporters. Anything that has the strong support of the AFL-CIO, SEIU, President Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden gives me reason for pause. Too often, it seems the real intent is all about power and control rather than any kind of improvements for the American people. This bill is no exception.

So, Mr.Trumka, if you don’t mind….I think I’ll just keep that secret ballot and fill that card out all by myself, thank you.

Read more about the EFCA here.


Michelle is a small business owner in south Texas.

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