- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Not even two months into the new Congress, the bipartisan facade of the highly poll-tested, heavily orchestrated first 100 hours is a distant memory. The real agenda of the new Democratic majority is coming to light, and many of the special interests that helped rally support for Democratic candidates during the last election cycle are lining up to cash in.

At the front of the line: Big Labor.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, organized labor gave nearly $60 million in hard-dollar PAC contributions to Democratic candidates in the last election cycle — with tens of millions more for “get out the vote” efforts piled on top. So what are they getting for their efforts? Nothing less than an unabashed attempt to destroy one of democracy’s most sacred rights.

The fact is, organized labor has seen its best days. It’s hemorrhaging members at a steady pace — losing 325,000 members last year, down to 12 percent nationwide. That’s quite a fall from 20 percent a quarter-century ago and a 35 percent high-water mark in the 1950s. But even last year’s dismal number is inflated by the sole bright spot for unions — government employees, 36 percent of whom are unionized. In the private sector alone, where Big Labor’s bread was buttered for decades, union membership has dropped to a meager 7.4 percent.

Faced with this reality, union bosses have reverted to full panic mode. And after they helped usher into Congress a new Democratic majority, they see a small window of opportunity; one final, desperate attempt to stop the bleeding.

That window has taken the form of the cleverly worded Employee Free Choice Act, which strips workers of their right to a secret ballot in union recognition elections. Instead, it would force workers to submit to a “card check” — a process that places them at risk of intimidation, coercion and threats from labor bosses, all to get them to sign a card to demonstrate their “support” for unionization.

The card-check legislation is the No. 1 priority of unions — and considering the bill’s quick committee action and hastily scheduled appearance on the House floor this week, Big Labor has succeeded in making it a top priority for Democrats as well. After all, Big Labor shouldn’t have to wait too long for a return on their staggering investment in last year’s campaign, should it?

What’s truly amazing about the Big Labor and congressional Democratic push for the card check bill is the absolute hypocrisy of it all. The labor bosses behind the effort to strip workers of their rights to a private ballot in union organization elections are the very same people who have argued passionately for such rights in union decertification elections. In fact, using quite stirring language, Big Labor once told the National Labor Relations Board that the secret ballot election is a “solemn” occasion, imperative to preserving “privacy and independence.”

But Big Labor doesn’t have a monopoly on hypocrisy in this debate. Congressional Democrats are giving them a run for their money. Consider this: Writing to Mexican — yes, Mexican — officials in August 2001 in advance of an election between two competing labor unions in that country, 16 House Democrats — 11 of whom remain in the House and sponsor the card-check bill, including the bill’s lead sponsor himself, Rep. George Miller of California — plainly stated: “We understand that the secret ballot is allowed for, but not required by Mexican labor law. We feel that the secret ballot is absolutely necessary in order to ensure workers are not intimidated into voting for a union they may otherwise not choose.” Not only do Democratic card-check proponents seem to support rights for Mexican workers that they aren’t even willing to protect for their own constituents, but they also have admitted that the process is deeply flawed and prone to intimidation.

Usually, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, but not when Big Labor and their allies in Congress are involved. The fact is, whether in Mexico or the United States, in decertification or recognition elections, the card check takes free choice away from workers and leaves them completely exposed to coercion.

But, faced with plummeting membership and an ever-loosening stranglehold on American workers, organized labor isn’t about to let bad policy — or blatant hypocrisy — get in their way. They’re ready for their payback. And congressional Democrats stand ready to deliver. Indeed, it appears that democratic principles and the sanctity of the secret ballot are not the concerns of the new majority party.

Rep. Tom Price, Georgia Republican, is a member of the House Education and Labor Committee.

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