- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Employee Free Choice Act would be more aptly-named the Employee No Choice Act.

This misnamed bill would actually eliminate the freedom of employees to vote in a private, secret-ballot election on whether or not to form a union. The House already passed it in a 241-185 vote and the companion bill has been introduced in the Senate.

Under card check, there is no private choice — and no clear end to the election process. Union organizers can take as much time as they want to push someone into signing a card — and they can go into the employee’s home, with one, two, or a full cadre of friends.

In fact, union organizers don’t even have to ask all employees to sign a card — no card, no choice, no vote. And no end in sight to the card-check process. Imagine that workplace environment: continuous, day-after-day-after-day union organizing, becoming more aggressive and no doubt more coercive as the 50 percent (plus one) figure of signature cards gets closer.

Under current law, there is a clear process to follow if a union wants to organize a business, a process with checks and balances to ensure fair play and honest results. A union first must collect signatures on a representation card from 30 percent (plus one) of the employees. At that point, both the union and employer have the right to request a federally supervised election, administered by the National Labor Relations Board.

The ultimate step is an election that allows the workers to make the choice, privately, without the union organizers or their bosses looking over their shoulders.

Why is Congress in such a hurry to take voting rights out of the workplace? This legislation does nothing but bolster plunging union membership.

The union decline is due in part to the realization of employees that unions no longer serve their self-interest, especially in the face of a dynamic, innovation-driven economy. Employees are more mobile then they were decades ago. Unemployment is at a historic low. Employers understand that their employees are their greatest asset and retaining their talented and productive employees is key to the continued success of America’s manufacturing economy.

That said, the issue before us is not about joining or not joining a union. The issue is whether every employee has the right to choose in a fair, private matter — free from coercion. Secret-ballot elections do just that.

The only people sure to gain from this bill are the labor bosses who will collect the mandatory union dues.

Instead of tackling the real issues facing our economy — runaway health-care costs, rising energy prices and a shortage of skilled workers — House members who passed this bill appeared more interested in returning a favor to a special-interest group. In the process, they sacrificed basic American principles Congress would normally defend: secret ballots and the freedom of association.

As this debate moves to the Senate, I urge legislators to take a closer look at the heart of the issue: democracy and employee rights, neither of which are served under this bill.

John Engler is President of the National Association of Manufacturers and the former three-term Governor of Michigan.

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