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Secrecy in the voting booth
Even most opponents of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq are applauding the results of last month’s elections. The balloting gave the Iraqi people the first opportunity for a free and fair vote in decades. While it was certainly not a perfect voting situation — no election ever is — millions of Iraqis braved bullets and bombs to have a say in their future.
But lest we forget, the murderous Saddam Hussein also held elections, and was re-elected president with 99 percent of the vote just before we invaded. So, what was the difference between the elections of Saddam and those we helped sponsor Jan. 30?
One word — secrecy. The ability to walk into a voting booth, pull the curtain and vote for anyone or anything we please with confidence the vote will be counted but never revealed to anyone who could use the knowledge to retaliate. Secret ballots are an absolute essential ingredient of a functioning democracy.
Under the Saddam, there was no such thing as secret ballots, so of course Saddam won 99 percent of the vote in his elections. With a reputation as a ruthless torturer and killer of anyone even remotely suspected of opposition, who would dare stand in front of his fedayeen henchmen and publicly declare they were voting against him?
Yet that is precisely what John Sweeney and his henchmen at the AFL-CIO demand of American workers. Last year Sen. Ted Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat — interestingly, the most vocal Senate opponent of our fight to spread democracy in Iraq — and Rep. George Miller, California Democrat, introduced what they astonishingly called the Employee Free Choice Act.
Even “Baghdad Bob,” former Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, would blush at that one.
What the union bosses propose is no less than stripping every worker in America of their right to a secret ballot on whether to unionize. The Kennedy-Miller bill would allow unions to take over a workplace through a fraudulent voting scheme called “card checks.”
Under this scheme, union thugs are allowed to confront individual workers on the job and at their homes, and demand the worker sign a card giving the union exclusive rights to representation. Workers who refuse are subject to intimidation, threats and even physical violence for not agreeing. When and if the union collects a simple majority of the worker cards at a given workplace, all employees at the workplace are forced to join the union, have dues garnished from their paychecks and give up all rights to negotiate with their employer on wages or work conditions. The Kennedy bill even forces the employer to give the worker’s home address to the union, so that the AFL-CIO’s “fedayeen” can make a house call on reluctant employees.
This is precisely the kind of tyranny that Americans are fighting and dying to defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is the kind of despotism that we have fought against since Bunker Hill. It is a key 21st-century justification for why we still need the 2nd Amendment.
Messrs. Kennedy and Miller are likely to resurrect this monstrosity again this year. It is another attempt to force the American worker back into decadent and corrupt organizations they have fled by the millions over the past decades, as the AFL-CIO increasingly failed to provide any real value to the workplace.
This week I introduced the Secret Ballot Protection Act of 2005. This bill guarantees that every worker in America has the right to vote in a secret ballot on whether they want to unionize. It mandates that those elections be conducted not by the employer or the union, but by the National Labor Relations Board. And it outlaws forever the fraudulent “card check” harassment schemes of these enemies of freedom and democracy.
It is past time that the working men and women of America had access to at least the democratic standards of postwar Iraq in dealing with organized labor. For those rights are already purchased in full with the blood of American patriots.
Rep. Charlie Norwood, Georgia Republican, is chairman of the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections.
By Brahma Chellaney
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