House Republican Leader John A. Boehner said Democrats' use of secret ballots to chose its leadership was ironic because the party wants to nix workers' rights to a secret voting in deciding whether to unionize.
"The secret ballot election is a cornerstone of our American democracy," Mr. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said Thursday. "If it is good enough for House Democrats to rely on during today's high-stakes vote, shouldn't it be good enough for millions of American workers across America who value their workplace privacy?"
He vowed Republicans would stand firmly against the Democrat's "card-check" legislation - dubbed the Employee Free Choice Act or EFCA. It would allow organizers to unionize a workplace by gathering enough singed cards rather than the current process of employees deciding by secret ballots.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, says a card check would not take away workers' right to a secret ballot. Instead, it would guarantee that when a majority of workers want a union, they get a union.
"Both majority sign up 'card check' and secret ballot elections already exist under current law," Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill said. "But in current law employers can decide whether or not workers can use the card check process. EFCA would transfer that choice to the workers, so if they prefer the majority sign-up they can have one, and their employer wouldn't get to veto that option."
Enacting the card-check law is a top priority for organized labor and the unions are confident it will be passed by the Democrat-led Congress and signed by President-elect Barack Obama, a top AFL-CIO lobbyist told The Washington Times this week.
"I have no doubt it will pass and will be singed," AFL-CIO government-affairs director William Samuel said in an exclusive interview.
Mr. Obama and House Democratic leaders supported the bill during House and Senate votes last year.
Critics of the card check process say it leaves workers vulnerable to coercion and intimidation from either the management or the union organizers.
Mr. Boehner highlighted House Democrats' use of a secret ballot Wednesday in deciding a bitter showdown between two Democratic titans - Rep. Henry A. Waxman of California and Rep. John D. Dingell of Michigan - over control of the Energy and Commerce Committee.
House Democratic Caucus voted 137 to 122 to install the fiercely liberal Mr. Waxman and outs Mr. Dingell, whose close ties to U.S. automakers and the utility industry had put him as odds with the environmental agenda of Democratic leaders, including Mrs. Pelosi.
Mr. Boehner noted that Rep. Louise Slaughter, New York Democrat, earlier in the week expressed relief her vote in the Dingell-Waxman conflict would not be public. "It's a secret ballot, thank the Lord," she told Congressional Quarterly.
"Killing secret ballot rights in the workplace may be a priority for the special interests that have placed Democrats in charge of Washington, but it is not in the best interest of workers or our democratic system," Mr. Boehner said.