- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 29, 2004

With his Secret Ballot Protection Act, Rep. Charlie Norwood is offering some of the House’s most liberal members an opportunity to get right with their consciences and with the working Americans they claim to represent.

Sixteen of the House’s biggest liberals, including Democrats George Miller, Barney Frank and Dennis Kucinich, took the initiative three years ago and wrote to Mexican officials, exhorting them about the wonderful benefits of secret-ballot elections in labor-organizing drives. “We understand that the secret ballot is allowed for, but not required, by Mexican labor law,” Messrs. Miller, Frank, Kucinich et al. observed in their Aug. 29, 2001, letter. “However,” they said, “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 join.”

Mr. Norwood, a Republican, agrees with the sentiments expressed by his Democratic friends. Unfortunately, while those liberals rightly honor the indispensability of the secret ballot for Mexican union-organizing votes, they seek to circumvent the time-tested practice of secret-ballot elections for union-organizing drives here in the United States. They do so by supporting legislation that would require employers to recognize a union if it is purportedly endorsed by a majority of its workers through a so-called card-check campaign. The sacred secret ballot in union-representation elections would be effectively jettisoned.

In a card-check campaign, workers express their apparent interest in joining a union by signing authorization cards. However, pursuing the card-check option would mean that workers would have to forfeit the valuable anonymity available in a secret ballot and expose themselves to intimidation. Under current law, U.S. employers may reject the union-endorsing results of a card-check campaign and demand a union-recognition election administered by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Not only does the Democratic legislation hypocritically contradict the honorable views proudly expressed in the letter signed by Messrs. Miller, Frank, Kucinich and others, but the Democratic-initiated bill also contradicts the sentiments overwhelmingly expressed by union members. Indeed, a Zogby poll conducted in June with 703 union members found that 78 percent wanted Congress to “keep the existing secret-ballot election process for union membership.” Moreover, 66 percent said it should not be legal for a company and union organizers to use the card-check campaign to “bypass the normal secret-ballot process to determine whether to unionize the workers.” Fully 84 percent of union members said they believed “workers should have the right” to “vote on whether they wish to belong to a union.”

Today, the Employer-Employee Relations Subcommittee of the House Education and Workforce Committee will hold a hearing on Mr. Norwood’s bill. This timely, much-needed legislation would prohibit unions from being recognized based on the intimidation- and harassment-filled card-check campaign, and it would guarantee workers the right to an NLRB-administered secret-ballot election to decide whether to unionize. Messrs. Miller, Frank and Kucinich can get right with their consciences by jumping on Mr. Norwood’s bandwagon.

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