What's wrong with 'Card Check'?

Why Card Check Is Unconstitutional

Only secret ballots are consistent with the First Amendment.


The Employee Free Choice Act of 2009 -- otherwise known as "card check" -- is organized labor's dream. As a practical matter, this legislation, pursued by both the Obama administration and the Democratic Congress, would do away with the secret ballot in the unionization process. Although card check's advocates and critics have spilled much ink arguing about the bill's fundamental fairness to labor and management, so far the debate has not focused on the other compelling interest at stake: the constitutionally protected right of employees to keep their opinions on controversial issues like unionization to themselves. This is card check's Achilles' heel.

The Supreme Court has interpreted the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech, along with the Fifth and 14th Amendment due process clauses, to protect a variety of expressive and associational rights. The right to speak and associate anonymously is among those rights. Indeed, anonymous speech has a long and honored tradition in American politics. Much of the political agitation leading up to the American Revolution was necessarily anonymous in order to avoid British sedition charges. And three of the Constitution's Framers -- James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay -- wrote the Federalist Papers supporting its ratification under the anonymous pen name "Publius."

The Supreme Court has consistently recognized the importance of this type of political discourse. The reason is obvious: Public speech on contentious issues often inflames passions, prompting intimidation and retaliation. Outing speakers who prefer anonymity chills speech, and has the potential to suppress it entirely. Read more here


Fighting the Card Check Bill

Senators Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), chairman of the Senate Steering Committee, and Mike Enzi (R-Wy.), ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, on Wednesday introduced in the Senate the Secret Ballot Protection Act (SBPA) -- legislation that would guarantee the right of every American worker to have a secret ballot election when deciding whether or not to unionize their workplace.  Reps. Tom Price (R-Ga.), the Republican Study Committee chair, John Kline (R-Minn.), and Buck McKeon (R-Ca.) introduced the House legislation with over 100 cosponsors, including minority leader John Boehner (R-Ohio).

The bill would amend the National Labor Relations Act to guarantee that every American worker would be given the protection of secret ballot union elections before being forced into monopoly bargaining.

Sen. DeMint told HUMAN EVENTS yesterday, “We have to ask ourselves in the middle of this economic crisis with the loss of jobs -- everyone heard the President [Tuesday] night talk about the importance of doing everything we can to protect and create jobs and get this economy going again -- we have to ask ourselves in the middle of this crisis, why would we be using these difficult times as an excuse to expand unionization?  Why would we take a business model that has completely destroyed the American auto industry and try to force it onto the entire American economy?  Why does this Democrat majority, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, want to deny American workers the fundamental right of a secret ballot?”

For nearly 75 years, American workers have had the right to join or form a labor union and to bargain collectively over wages, hours and working conditions by collecting signed authorization cards from at least 30 percent of the company’s workforce. These signatures are then used to petition the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to supervise an election to settle the question of whether or not a workplace will be unionized. These elections are held within 60 days, and the NLRB follows set procedures designed to ensure a fair election, allowing employees to vote confidentially and without peer pressure or coercion from unions or employers.   

Under current labor law, employers can force a union on their own workers by recognizing a union as the exclusive bargaining representative based on a “card check,” or they can insist upon a secret ballot election administered by the NLRB.  What Democrats seek to do is broaden the scope of the “card check” signature system currently in place as a means to petition the NLRB for an election.  Democrats would allow the “card check” to replace the option for a secret ballot election in the unionization process.  

 “Democrats have teamed up with union bosses to completely eliminate secret ballot votes in the workplace, and instead impose a mandatory ‘card check,’” DeMint continued.  “Under this undemocratic ‘card check’ system, workers are forced to sign cards in support of a union without a secret ballot election, which allows bullying and peer pressure to influence votes. ‘Card check’ is completely unacceptable and un-American, and we must pass the Secret Ballot Protection Act to safeguard workers’ rights for good.”

I asked RSC Chairman Price about recent reports that the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) has voiced support for the “card check” system and their desire to work with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to make this forced unionization a reality.  ACORN is the group under federal investigation by the FBI for charges of facilitating voter fraud and voter registration fraud in a reported 18 states.  

Read more here

The Union Cudgel

Big Labor gets nasty on 'card check.'


Big Labor's drive to eliminate secret ballots for union elections has united American business in opposition, so labor chiefs are putting on the brass knuckles: The new strategy is to threaten companies with government retaliation if they don't stop lobbying against turning U.S. labor markets into Europe.

We wrote on February 13 about the letter from the labor consortium Change to Win to the Financial Services Roundtable, demanding that banks receiving Troubled Asset Relief Program money keep quiet about union "card check." To its credit, the banking lobby hasn't backed down. Now Big Labor is escalating, demanding in a February 23 letter to Secretary Timothy Geithner that Treasury muzzle the companies if they won't muzzle themselves.

"Firms receiving significant TARP assistance continue to lobby against the interests of hard working taxpayers," says the letter from Change to Win Chair Anna Burger. "For example, these firms continue to oppose legislation that would allow bankruptcy judges to modify mortgage loan terms, establish a Credit Cardholder's Bill of Rights and protect consumers from corporations that bury mandatory arbitration clauses in fine print."

Imagine that: Banks are daring to fight legislation that would reduce their profitability -- and at a time when our public officials say they are desperate for banks to earn themselves out of trouble.

The letter targets in particular the Principal Financial Group, based in Des Moines, which it says should be denied TARP money because of the "scale and scope" of its lobbying. But wait -- Citigroup spent three times more money on fourth-quarter lobbying than the $515,000 spent by Principal, the unions admit. So, what gives? It seems Principal's real sin is that it "lobbied on 26-labor related bills . . . including the Employee Free Choice Act," and it is the only TARP applicant or recipient to have disclosed doing so.

In case Mr. Geithner doesn't get the political point, the letter helpfully notes that "there is now a Congressional effort underway to curb lobbying by TARP recipients." Senators Dianne Feinstein (California) and Olympia Snowe (Maine) are leading that effort to limit corporate political speech, and Ms. Burger copies no fewer than 13 Members of Congress on her Treasury missive. Read more here