With the introduction of S 1041, the passing of HR 800 and the discovery of a letter signed by sixteen Democrats written to the state of Puebla, Mexico, it is clear that not only does hypocrisy know no partisan boundaries but calls into question the call to change by their presidential nominee.
First, what is HR 800 and S 1041?
These bills are ironically named the Employee Free Choice Act of 2007. The ‘ironically’ will become clear in a minute. These bills purport to “amend the National Labor Relations Act to establish an efficient system to enable employees to form, join, or assist labor organizations, to provide for mandatory injunctions for unfair labor practices during organizing efforts, and for other purposes.”
So, that sounds good, right? Yes, much like most bills that are named by those introducing them, they always sound impressive and necessary. But the meat of this bill has little to do with freedom of choice as it does in allowing strong-arm tactics and pressure by union organizers to ‘encourage’ more union participation, something that has been in decline in the US recently.
In the section entitled ‘Streamlining Union Certification’ we see a change in the law that states:
(6) Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, whenever a petition shall have been filed by an employee or group of employees or any individual or labor organization acting in their behalf alleging that a majority of employees in a unit appropriate for the purposes of collective bargaining wish to be represented by an individual or labor organization for such purposes, the Board shall investigate the petition. If the Board finds that a majority of the employees in a unit appropriate for bargaining has signed valid authorizations designating the individual or labor organization specified in the petition as their bargaining representative and that no other individual or labor organization is currently certified or recognized as the exclusive representative of any of the employees in the unit, the Board shall not direct an election but shall certify the individual or labor organization as the representative described in subsection (a).
I know, it is a bit of ‘legal-eze’ but let me explain what is going on. Currently, when a union is attempting to form at a business, the organizers pass out cards and attempt to convince the employees to sign them. If 30% of the employees sign the cards, it indicates that the employees either want a union or want to have a vote on whether or not to have a union and an election is called by the NLRB. If 50% of the employees sign the cards, the employer has the option of foregoing the election, if they so desire. The secret ballot ensures that there was no pressure applied to the employees, this protects the company AND the employees from overzealous union organizations that have been known to exist from time to time.
This is not just a Libertarian view either. The AFLCIO, who has been pushing for this bill to be introduced and made law, requires that any DE-certification of a union be done with a secret ballot.
In a jointbrief, the AFL-CIO argued before the NLRB that in decertification petitions (the process by which it is determined a union no longer represents a majority of employees), secret-ballot elections “provide the surest means of avoiding decisions which are the result of group pressures and not individual choices.”
In addition, the NLRB and the Supreme Court have weighed in as well:
both the NLRB and the Supreme Court have long recognized that a Board-conducted secret-ballot election is “the most satisfactory, indeed preferred method” of ascertaining employee support for a union.
In fact, in the landmark 1969 Gissel Packing Co. decision, the Supreme Court affirmed that cards
are “admittedly inferior to the election process.”
Further, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) passed in 2002 re-enforced the right to secret ballot in elections with Senator Harkin – D stating that “one of the most fundamental of all rights that make us uniquely American [is] the right of the secret ballot.” Senator Dodd – D stated that “the sanctity of a private ballot is so fundamental to our system of elections.”
The change in the law proposed by HR 800 and S 1041 simply bypasses the secret ballot phase and automatically certifies a union if enough union cards are turned in. This removes that protection of the employee and the company. Instead, it gives more power to the union. It eliminates an important right to privacy that we must have in a democracy to be a free people. It allows the possibility that a union organizer could coerce enough employees to sign a card while standing in front of them looking on.
It is hardly news to anyone, then, that the people who introduced the bill and the bill cosponsors are mostly Democrats. Bowing to the pressure of the labor unions has been a time honored tradition in the Democratic Party. Included in that list is, of course, the Agent of Change himself, Barak Obama.
But that really comes as no surprise, does it? I mean, Barak talks a good game about changing how we do business in Washington and accepting no money from registered lobbyists, but he doesn’t tell you that he votes in lockstep with his party 97% of the time, much less of a ‘Maverick’ than his opponent’s 90% in very recent years. He also doesn’t tell you that in order to raise the money he did raise, he created ‘ad-hoc’ lobbyists that got special access to his campaign by bringing in as many donors as they could. These people are not registered and we know of very few of them, but they are the ones who have the candidate’s ear.
Now, the argument has been on the left that this step is necessary. I have yet to hear a valid reason why removing the ability to vote in secret is somehow now a Good Thing, but if the unions tell them it is, well then they are pretty much obliged to agree. But even worse is that we now have access to a letter written by George Miller –D who introduced HR 800 into the House of Representatives and signed by 15 of his fellow congressmen. This letter was written to the government of Puebla, Mexico as they were considering making union votes public and not private affairs. It states:
As members of Congress of the United States who are deeply concerned with international labor standards and the role of labor rights in international trade agreements, we are writing to encourage you to use the secret ballot in all union recognition elections.
We understand that the secret ballot is allowed for, but not required, by Mexican labor law. However, we feel that the secret ballot is absolutely necessary in order to ensure that workers are not intimidated into voting for a union they might not otherwise choose.
We respect Mexico as an important neighbor and trading partner, and we feel that the increased use of the secret ballot in union recognition elections will help bring real democracy to the Meixcan workplace.
Apparently, ‘real democracy’ is important to countries like Mexico for the Democrats, but America can do just fine without it.
Remember, this letter is written on the letterhead of George Miller who introduced HR 800 into the House of Representatives. This was written in 2001 and signed by:
Martin Olav Sabo
Dennis J. Kucinich
Fortney Pete Stark
James P. McGovern
William J. Coyne
Calvin M. Dooley
11 of the 16 signees are still in the House of Representatives. Dooley, Sabo, Evans and Coyne are no longer representatives and Sanders is now a senator. And, you guessed it, the remaining 11 ALL signed on as cosponsors to HR 800. Sanders, following suit of course, signed HR 1041, the senate companion bill that is still residing in committee despite having 46 cosponsors.
You see, the union organizers really don’t care about what goes on in Mexico in regards to labor unions. They care about their own power in the United States. This is why it is ok for these congressmen to say to Mexico “you need to use secret ballots to ensure democracy” but then turn around and introduce legislation into the House of Representatives to undermine the principles of democracy when it comes to American citizens.
And it is even clearer that Obama is interested in one thing, getting elected. Change is a strategy, a way to appear different than the others, but when a principled stand is needed, he either goes along with his party or votes ‘present’ when provided the opportunity.