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We don't need no stinking ballots!

I, like many others, have been horrified and appalled at the naked power grab by America's unions with the incredibly Orwellian-named "Employee Free Choice Act." Under this proposed bill (threatened with filibuster by Senate Republicans and a presidential veto), employees considering unionizing can Freely Choose to publicly declare whether or not they wish to join a union, dispensing with that whole boring, tedious secret ballot process.

One element that has always puzzled me, though, is just how the backers of this assault on one of our most cherished democratic principles could rationalize it. It's been a cornerstone of my beliefs that "no man is a villain in his own eyes," so the supporters had to have some sort of reasoning on why they would do this.

In cases like this, I can always count on the Boston Globe. And they didn't let me down.

According to one of their regular columnists, it isn't about the ballot at all. It's simply a measure to shorten the decision process, to minimize the time that the company can threaten and intimidate its workers while they weigh whether or not to unionize. The loss of the secret ballot step -- which Mr. Kuttner glosses over in a most remarkable fashion -- is seen as a small sacrifice.

In fact, Mr. Kuttner's disposal of the whole matter is so remarkable, I feel compelled to quote the entire relevant section here:

Under current rules, a two-stage process requires a majority first to sign cards, followed by a protracted period leading up to an election. It's during this interim phase that employers threaten rank and file workers, and fire their leaders -- sending a powerful signal to other workers not to get cozy with unions.

So, does Mr. Kuttner (and, by extension, this measure's elected supporters) advocate cutting down the "protracted period" between the signed cards and the election? Nah. That's too much like honesty. Instead, toss the baby out with the bath water and get rid of the entire "protracted period" and election too.

After all, it's not like unions to engage in their own forms of intimidation, thuggery, and corruption. Just ask Jimmy Hoffa. (Whoops.) Or any of the other Teamsters presidents -- how many of them haven't been indicted for corruption?

Besides, who knows just how those workers will vote, out of the careful sight of union "organizers?" If Guido ain't there to make sure they vote right, why they might just vote their conscience, and not the way they oughta if they know what's good for them.

I once had to drive through a union picket line. It was one of the most frightening moments of my life. I was threatened and insulted in ways the regular trolls can only fantasize about, and even having the police there barely checked them. Indeed, the cops informed me that they had to let the picketers hold me up for several minutes, walking back and forth across the road, shouting and waving their signs (and middle fingers,), while I was to not do a damned thing to "provoke" them. (In retrospect, I wish I'd blown them a kiss or two. That tends to really, really piss off angry people -- especially men.) If they're willing to act like that in public, in front of police officers, just how might they act in private, trying to "persuade" workers to sign union cards?

Yeah, companies can also intimidate workers. But it's been a long, long time since that kind of intimidation involved threats of physical violence. And quite frankly, I have a bit more tolerance for corporate intimidation than union thuggery. It tends to involve less time at the doctor's.

I find myself hoping that the Republican Senators don't filibuster the measure, just vote against it and let it go to the President. This sort of horrific law doesn't need to die a quiet death, it needs to be dragged out in full public view, held up for scorn and derision, and then executed by a presidential veto, "pour encourager les autres."

But first, we need to see just who in Congress will not only tolerate, but actively support this heinous measure.


Comments (21)

Power to the People!<... (Below threshold)
Mitchell:

Power to the People!

As long as that power is dispensed by the vanguard of the proletariat, of course. Got to keep that vanguard happy, you know.

Perhaps the real fear of Di... (Below threshold)
kim:

Perhaps the real fear of Diebold is that it can ensure privacy.
=====================================

Hmmm, this isn't treason, o... (Below threshold)
epador:

Hmmm, this isn't treason, or MADONNA, but it does seem like Stupid-People-Eschewing-America's-Rational-System.

Union membership is decreas... (Below threshold)

Union membership is decreasing so much that they fear this is the only way they can con people into forming unions, and thus supporting them with union dues.

Any employer who threatens,... (Below threshold)

Any employer who threatens, intimidates, or retaliates against union members faces fines, penalties, possible jail time and possible immediate certification... The employer cannot promise or induce anyone to vote against the union. The pre-certification period is considered like a poliical campaign. The union can promise anything because they cannot deliver it. (They can only negotiate for it. ) The employer cannot make any promises as they have the power to deliver... I went thru four certification elections. Won them all... The only thing GOOD management can do is work very hard to make the unions unnecessary. If they do not give employees a reason to turn to the union and they won't... Unions are very expensive for employes to purchase every payday... Union dues and strike fund dues an other assessments are never quantified by union organizers.

Interestngly, the new legislation does not allow a mere card signature to de-certify the union. That requires an election... Howcome its necessary to get one out but not to get one in?

Unions are a sure sign of bad management.

<a href="http://www.wsws.or... (Below threshold)

THIS represents what the Congressional Dems are protecting. Nothing more.

I too have had to run the g... (Below threshold)
jack:

I too have had to run the gauntlet of picket line. I call them LABOR MAFIAs. It's more descriptive.

Hmmm. I wonder what Terry ... (Below threshold)
kim:

Hmmm. I wonder what Terry MacAuliffe's up to these days.
==================================

I can sympathize with your ... (Below threshold)
GarandFan:

I can sympathize with your having to cross a picket line. While driving a delivery truck during my college days, I had to cross one. Dumb #[email protected] me left my door open....got smacked up the side of the head with an orange. No cops around. The next week I crossed that picket line at 35mph. They saw me coming and got out of the way, no hit, no foul. Strike went on for 4 months, but I never had anything thrown at me again.

AndyJ has it right. Any emp... (Below threshold)
yetanotherjohn:

AndyJ has it right. Any employer who threatens over a union vote has signed up for a world of legal trouble.

I remember one case where the firm gave out raises and got fined. So even doing nice things, like raises or fixing up a break room can get you fined.

Sorry, but anyone who can miss the obvious about the secret ballot and then claim the false is a fraud.

This brings back a memory f... (Below threshold)
Robert the original:

This brings back a memory from a Michigan Democrat Presidential primary some years ago.

The unions ran the party back then; they still do in Michigan but in a less obvious way.

Anyway, I go to vote in the Dem. primary which I sometimes do, one candidate is running on a very pro-union platform.

So I go the polling place - a UAW Local - and I pass many union guys in muscle shirts to get in. I take a ballot and fill it in, in the little privacy booth.

Then, to hand the ballot in you have to get in one of two lines - one to vote for the union guy and one to vote for the other.

The "other" line is a gauntlet manned by union stewards and supervisors, taking notice of any union members who dared to vote the "wrong" way.

On the Waterfront.

It's hilarious that the sam... (Below threshold)
MikeSC:

It's hilarious that the same party voting to have "every vote counted" in 2000 (except for the military ones) now wants to eliminate the need to count votes in union certification.
-=Mike

With the American economy e... (Below threshold)

With the American economy entering near "perfect storm" conditions of skyrocketinmg foreign and national debt rated at over $76,000 per household, declining dollar value against world currencies, serious energy and related goods inflation, a negative savings rate in many American households while Chinese families have an average 23% savings rate, record home foreclosures and subprime loan industry problems, mounting credit card and personal debt, declining wages, rampant job outsourcing to labor cheap nations of China, I cannot fault American workers to seek help to improve the collapsing status of the shrinking American middle class.

The American middle class is rapidly becoming an endangered species amid a rising and drowning tide of economic problems that threatens to eventually collapse American civilization. Any reasonable effort to strengthen the status of workers, strengthen their ability to maintain a middle class staus are very important.

The EMPLOYEE FREE CHOICE BILL is a good one. It addresses serious problems of employer intimidation and job firings to keep wages low. Unions create a highly professional workforce, better able to compete with any world manufacturing competitor. Unions provide better wages, safety conditions, health benefits and retirement benefits than nonunion employment by far.

The fatal Sago Mine disaster of last year was typical of a business that had eliminated the union. Miners could not complain about unsafe working conditions such as roof falls, governement inspectors had to discover any unsafe working conditions on their own, and miners eventually died in a horrible and avoidable safety accident not likely in a unionized mine. In China where mines are even more scarce, fatal mine accidents number in the thousands each year. This is no role model for American workers at all.


Besides strengthening labor unions, workers should consider buying out more businesses through stock ownership, and forming worker owned workplaces, collectives and other worker owned business arrangements that work for the benefit of the workers, not some small group of profiteers who have little real loyality to the goods produced by company like the workers do. Some businesses such the employee owned BIMART and others are excellent examples of worker owned companies, using a federal program model of stock-retirement fund ownership.

Sometimes Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamsters are brought up as some example by antiunionists. However, this Republican leaning union is hardly in the mainstream of American unions in either conduct or policies, and for many years had a very distant relationship with the AFL-CIO. Radical right lobbyists such as Rick Berman, who represents big tobacco and alcohol companies, has opposed removal of harmful pesticides from store products, has sought to wrongly align unions in propaganda websites and advertising, while refusing to publicly disclose his own money trail of big tobacco, restaurant, alcohol and other company funds. Berman even opposed drunk driving laws and lobbied against them because of concerns it would limit alcohol sales. Some of Berman's antiunion TV ads even portray African-American workers in very crude racist stereotypes of being lazy and not wantintg to work, and are extremely offensive in tone.

Big tobacco is heavily involved in right to work law lobbying and other union busting activities. The American tobacco industry enslaves millions of Americans to a highly addictive drug, and kills over 50,000 nonsmokers a year with secondhand smoke that violates EPA Federal Clean Air standards for the release of cadmium, nickel, and 4.000 other harmful and banned substanstances into the public air. Tobacco was responsive for bringing slaves to America in the hulls of ships chained together with inadequate water and food, helped to form the Southern Baptist Convention to prevert religion to justify slavery despite the examples of Moses and Exodus, and helped to caiuse the civil war to protect their tobacco profits to use virtually free slave labor. Tobacco has always stood for enslavement, violence and abuse of working persons in it's history in the U.S., and has never acted as anything but a criminal enterprise in American history and is hardly any credible witness against American workers who seek the right to unionize and the many benefits it brings.

Shorter Paul Hooson:<... (Below threshold)
Mike G in Corvallis:

Shorter Paul Hooson:

Unions are benign and wonderful, and we should all want to join them. Eeeeeevil Big Corporations oppose them, so they must be good. Since unions are so great, I won't even bother to address the specifics of the criticism, which is about a particular strongarm tactic that many unions will use to fraudulently gain certification.

Even shorter Paul Hooson:

"Look, over there! Unicorns!"

Yeah, why do we need secret... (Below threshold)

Yeah, why do we need secret ballots when we can have leg-breaking thugs standing over us while we mark our votes?


Mike G, corporations are no... (Below threshold)

Mike G, corporations are not necessarily evil by any means, but often just too focused on profits for the elite officers who control these companies. Unions equalize the American manufacturing equation by working to support a highly professional and safe workforce, the growth of the American middle class, and workers who don't feel alienation like many stuck in deadend low paying "McJobs" who have little pride in the products they produce.

Recently Circuit City announced plans to layoff 3,000 of their higher paid workers and replacement with 3,000 lower paid less professional and skilled workers. Is Circuit City a better business with less computer professionals and experts to respond to customer questions with more know nothing cheaper workers? Professionalism in the workplace should be rewarded, and companies should figure the best ways to use this expertise to improve their bottom line, not discourage it. Best Buy has been able to capitalize on a highly professional workforce, while Circuit City's problems are a failure to follow the Best Buy formula for business success by management. Management cannot fault the workers for their own shortcomings to properly utilize this professional workforce.

I've never been a union member myself, but have operated businesses for many years. And better employees are certainly worth paying more for, I can assure you of that. One good higher paid employee can be as productive as five less skilled workers in my experience. Less skilled lower cost employees make costly mistakes for the company, aren't very productive, and are hardly worth fooling with compared to a more professional workforce.

How would you feel, Paul, i... (Below threshold)
kim:

How would you feel, Paul, if a union forced you to not to discriminate in paying your better workers more than your less skilled ones, or wouldn't allow you to distinguish between them in other ways?
========================================

There are so many silly ass... (Below threshold)

There are so many silly assertions in Hooson's polemic that taking them on one-by-one would be exhausting.

But boiling it all down, it seems to me that if "unions" per se are so wonderful, they wouldn't have any problem attracting the support of workers during the course of a proper, secret ballot election.

Paul Hooson --I'm ... (Below threshold)
Mike G in Corvallis:

Paul Hooson --

I'm sure you believe that unions are a Good Thing. In some, perhaps many, situations you may be right. But you're having a conversation with yourself, because this thread isn't about whether unions are good or bad per se, it's about whether unions should be able to use a tactic that seems designed to increase fraud and corruption and to trample on the rights of workers.

There are very good reasons we have secret ballots in political elections. The same reasons apply to union elections. If workers cannot have secret-ballot elections, some unions without question will use coercion, threats, and actual violence to ensure that workers make the "correct" choice -- or else.

Why are you avoiding addressing this issue? Is it perhaps because the so-called EMPLOYEE FREE CHOICE BILL can't stand on its own merits?

It doesn't make much differ... (Below threshold)
Ennis:

It doesn't make much difference anymore. At the rate unions are putting the companies their members work for out of business soon the only unions that will exist will be the government ones.

Want to see the future of heavily unionized cities?

Look at Detroit.

Hey Ennis, got a brother na... (Below threshold)
kim:

Hey Ennis, got a brother named Bill?

It's kind of interesting that the unions now infest two areas of American life which we can't outsource to more efficient workers; public governance and education of our children.
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