Union free choice of secret ballot, need help to keep right of worker
- NH may play 'card check' filibuster role
By DENIS PAISTE
New Hampshire Union Leader Staff
Tuesday, Jul. 29, 2008
MANCHESTER � New Hampshire is one of a dozen states considered critical to upholding a filibuster in the U.S. Senate against the union-backed Employer Free Choice Act, a national official with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said yesterday.
Both New Hampshire's Republican U.S. Sens. Judd Gregg and John Sununu voted against the so-called "card check" legislation on June 26, 2007, but Sununu faces a tough election challenge from former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen. Shaheen, who lost to Sununu in 2002 by almost 20,000 votes, supports card check.
"I don't think many people today would say that it's likely that control of the House will change ... so the full battle is going to be on whether or not the unions are going to be able to achieve what they describe as a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate," said Steven J. Law, chief legal counsel and general counsel.
Speaking to about 30 invited guests of the New Hampshire Business and Industry Association at the Center of New Hampshire, Law said, "This is not a minute change, but a truly radical reordering of labor-management relations and labor-management laws that have been in this country literally for half a century or longer."
Today, in union drives, Law said, "There is a private vote where workers are able to go into the privacy of the voting booth free from intimidation by either the employer or by the union and cast that vote in secret.
"The effective result of the Employee Free Choice Act would be to remove that option, because unions would then be free to get their union certified solely by collecting cards from 50 percent plus one, of that workforce," Law said.
"Once they have that and they could certify the union, it would be illegal for a worker to say they wanted to have that validated by a secret ballot," Law said.
Yesterday afternoon, Mark MacKenzie, president of the state AFL-CIO, said under current law, if a union collects authorization cards from a majority of employees, employers have the right to voluntarily recognize the union without an election.
"So if a majority of us make the decision, and we sign the declaration, the employer could recognize that majority, but not one of them does," he said.
He said employers prefer elections because they are "an opportunity for them to influence the process in a closed environment; they try to discourage workers from trying to exercise their rights under the law," MacKenzie said.
"This would give employees the right to say, 'This is our decision,'" he said.
Law said labor unions plan to spend $300 million on politics in 2008 to influence the elections and to drive a broad agenda. He called it "in my memory at least, the largest single influence-buying spree by any individual special interest group in American political history."
He said the U.S. Chamber of Commerce would spend $30 to $40 million to influence this year's elections.
Law said unions have been deliberately vague in promoting card check. "The basic marketing they have on the Employee Free Choice Act is this: 'Unions are a ticket to the middle-class, details to follow.' They are not talking about this issue to their members because they understand that even rank-and-file union members value the protection of a private ballot."
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If ever there was a reason for level headed Democrats to vote Sununu this is it!
- leno hebert, raymond
Workers would still have the right to choose a secret ballot but it would be their choice. Under the current bad law, employers hold "captive audience" meetings and intimidate the employees into voting against the union, with all sorts of misinformation. The union doesn't get that same "captive audience" opportunity. It's time to balance the playing field and let workers have the original choice that was intended by the law - the right to choose a union. (I am the national president of The Newspaper Guild-CWA, and am proud of how unions help workers).
- Bernard Lunzer, Silver Spring, Maryland
I was in the union for 30 years and never once got "strongarmed" into paying part of my wages to the union. I felt very protected as a union member and not at the mercy of my employer who, for whatever reason, could fire me for no reason whatsoever. At least with the union you have a representative that will fight for you, your wages, and your working conditions. God bless the unions.
- Robert B. Steers, Beaufort, NC
While the history of the American labor movement is rife with stories of abuse and manipulation of the secret ballot process, it is hard to comprehend that a card collection system done away from the privacy of a secret voting process would improve the process. Rather, it opens the door to even more onerous forms of abuse.
Gregg & Sununu need to stand their ground. Supporters of Shaheen should query further why she supports conversion of the process away from the long standing voting privleges provided under a democratic process and decide how much of that explanation actually has union based campaign funding behind it.
- Jack Moran, Greenfield
Letting the unions intimidate the workers into joining the union is a bad idea. If some of you think it is not a bad idea then you have no idea what it can be like. I was in the local 829 of the teamsters in Brighton Mass in the 1970's. One day we were all called into the lunch room and the doors were locked. We were then all told that we had each elected to contribute $100.00 of that weeks pay to the Teamsters political action fund. The doors were blocked by the union protection people and no one could leave until they agreed.
If you don't think it will happen in this day and age you are sadly mistaken. It still happens even today.
- Don Armstrong, Henniker
This legislation takes away the right of secret ballot and they call it the Employee "Free Choice" Act?? What nonsense. This should be called the Employee Intimidation Act. This enables union thugs to put pressure on people to sign their foolish cards in order to unionize a shop. How can an employer possibly "influence the process" when there is a secret ballot? What's next - union goons get to go into the booth when the employees vote in state and federal elections to make sure they vote "the right way"? Gregg and Sununu should hold their ground and vote against this transparent attempt to take away the fundamental right of secret ballot. We should be moving towards right to work laws to eliminate "closed shops" and give all employees real free choice.
- Mark, Amherst
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