The community group ACORN, which itself is under federal investigation for alleged voter registration fraud, has been pushing “card check” legislation that would deprive workers of the right to a secret ballot, Rep. Tom Price tells Newsmax.
Calling the card check bill the “union worker intimidation act,” Price says Democrats are organizing “ACORN and MoveOn.org and others, whatever groups they’re able to mobilize,” to urge passage of card check.
A Georgia Republican, Price is chairman of the Republican Study Committee, the caucus of House conservatives. With Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., Price has introduced the Secret Ballot Protection Act, an opposing bill that would specifically guarantee the right to a secret ballot.
Under labor relations laws, workers for the past 75 years have had the right to choose by secret ballot whether to sign up to join a union. When given the right to choose by secret ballot, employees generally reject unions. The proportion of workers represented by unions has declined from 20 percent in 1983 to 12 percent last year.
Known as card check legislation, the deceptively named Employee Free Choice Act is an effort to reverse that trend. Under card check, a union official presents a card to a worker and asks him to check whether he wants to join the union. Because the official can see the worker’s choice, the procedure subjects the employee to possible intimidation and retaliation if he does not go along and sign up to join the union.
If card check is enacted, the political makeup of the country could change dramatically because more unionization means more contributions will be going to candidates who are Democrats.
Card check “takes away one of the very fundamental principles of American rights, and that is that you don’t affect major decisions in people’s lives without the ability to have a secret ballot vote on it,” Price says. When workers are asked to sign up for a union using card check, “You get visited by your coworkers, and they say it’s important you sign this. And it’s tough to say no in that instance,” Price says.
Last year, the House voted for card check legislation, while the Senate defeated it. Price says members knew then that they could claim credit for voting for the bill without having it pass, since President Bush had vowed to veto it.
With Barack Obama in the White House, the equation has changed. Obama was a co-sponsor of the bill last year and has said he would sign the law if enacted. But Democrats are having trouble lining up enough co-sponsors to ensure passage.
“There was great comfort in knowing that whatever you passed in that arena would be vetoed by the administration,” Price says. “That was an easy vote. This is the tough vote now.”
Polls show Americans overwhelmingly favor a secret ballot. For now, Obama has appeared to distance himself from the effort to enact card check. “If we are losing half a million jobs a month, then there are no jobs to unionize,” Obama told The Washington Post in January. So “my first focus is on . . . key economic priority items.”
But in her first public appearance after being confirmed as labor secretary, Hilda Solis told 700 union members and community activists in Miami this week that she plans to work to help pass and then enforce card check legislation.
Ironically, when she was in Congress, Solis joined other Democrats to protest the election of Rep. Joe Baca, D-Calif., to head the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ election because he was not elected by secret ballot.
“As we prepare for the 110th Congress in which the Congressional Hispanic Caucus will have the opportunity to play a more prominent role, we believe it is imperative that our caucus’ integrity be unquestioned,” Solis and others said in a letter Jan. 5, 2007 letter to Baca calling for a new election by secret ballot. Baca ignored the letter.
If card check passes, “I believe that we would see a significant increase in the number of union members and a significant decrease in job creation,” Price says. “That’s because employers will not want to expand and hire more workers who are unionized, adding to costs and often decreasing efficiency.”
Beyond adding to costs and making the U.S. less competitive, unionization “colors every single relationship, and it makes it just more difficult to get things done,” Price says. “Detroit automakers are the example of what can happen with a union shop that is very aggressive.”
Congressional hearings have documented what happens when workers no longer can vote by secret ballot. Under the current procedures, initial requests to an employer to form a union shop are voted on through the card check procedure. Depending on what proportion of workers ask for a union, a final election is then automatically held by secret ballot, or the employer can say that he wants a secret ballot vote.
Typically, a third of workers who initially check a card saying they want a union reject them when given the right to choose using a secret ballot, Price says.
Former presidential candidate George McGovern, a pro-labor liberal, has called card check a “disturbing and undemocratic overreach, not in the interest of either management or labor.” The concept, he has said, runs “counter to ideals that were once at the core of the labor movement.”
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via
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