Protecting Who’s Interests Exactly?

Today the House of Representatives passed the Employee Free Choice Act. Though it is very doubtful that this bill will ever be passed by the Senate and then survive a promised presidential veto, I’ve been reading up on the bill to determine why it is being implemented and I have to say that the need for this escapes me completely and further makes me wonder just who the supporters of the bill are trying to protect.

The current process for forming a union currently requires that a secret ballot is taken. If the majority of workers vote to unionize from that ballot then a union is formed. This process seems pretty straightforward to me. However, because of charges of employee intimidation, the answer to this dilemma is to allow a union to form if a majority of workers sign cards stating they want a union. No vote is required.

This doesn’t seem like much of a difference on the surface, a majority of people are still voting for the union. What concerns me is that the cards are not ‘secret’. This means that everyone will know how someone votes, either for or against a union. How is this supposed to stop employee intimidation? Doesn’t it actually make it EASIER for employers and even fellow employees to know who is for the union and who is against the union and use all kinds of intimidation methods?

I have still not seen a good explanation of how this is better for the employee. I have seen how this will increase union participation. The San Francisco Chronicle writes that Nancy Pelosi said boosting union membership would help the American economy. Perhaps, perhaps not. But what then was the purpose of the bill? To allow the employees to choose to unionize (or not) or to increase union membership? How does taking away a fundamental need for these ballots to be secret to remove all intimidation of the employee voting from being able to vote their conscious help the worker?

If there are issues with employer intimidation and using the system against the workers, it would makes sense to me to put in checks to ensure that attempts to unionized are not blocked or delayed by management, but this does nothing at all to address those issues. In fact, it really does put a question on the purpose of the bill. Is it really to help the worker or the unions?

The San Francisco Chronicle might help give us a further clue. They write about the speaker and bill’s primary sponsor George Miller’s background with organized labor

Miller received $299,000 in campaign contributions from labor political action committees of his total $667,494 raised during the 2005-2006 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, who has received significant support from labor throughout her congressional career, received $349,000 in union contributions of the $1.7 million she raised during the 2005-06 cycle.

I’m not suggesting that this bill is a payback of sorts for campaign funding (though others are), but more likely these individuals believe very strongly in unions and would like to see participation in unions increase in the US for what they feel will help the economy and working conditions of the worker. It is obvious that the unions feel that these individuals are likely to vote for their best interests. But it seems that they are trying to make that decision FOR the worker, not allowing the employees to determine for themselves, free from individual scrutiny by their coworkers or employers, on what is best for them. Perhaps sometimes what is best for the worker is NOT to unionize?

I would rather we keep the requirement that these ballots must be secret. As I have said, if we need to address specific tactics that are being misused by management to block unions, let’s address them specifically, not take away a necessary protection for the worker while trying to convince them that it’s for their own good. If someone could explain how this helps the individual worker instead of the unions I would be glad to see the logic I am apparently missing.

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