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Everyone (Including Union Leaders) Prefers Real Elections

The public, the courts, leading editorial pages, and politicians all prefer secret ballot elections. When they’re acting as employers, union officials prefer secret ballots, too.

In 2006, a national survey by the Opinion Research Corporation found that 75 percent of Americans chose secret ballot elections as the most democratic method of choosing unionization. By contrast, only 12 percent believed that card check was the most fair and democratic method, and 13 percent answered “don’t know.” A follow-up in 2007 found that 78 percent preferred secret ballots. A 2007 McLaughlin & Associates poll found 87 percent of Americans believed a federally supervised private ballot should be retained. And poll after poll through March 2011 shows Americans voters and union workers overwhelmingly believe nobody should ever be forced or coerced to join or pay union dues to a union as a condition of employment.

The public’s response mirrors that of the courts, members of Congress, labor officials, and editorial pages from newspapers across the United States.

In 1991, the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals stated, “Freedom of choice is a matter at the very center of our national labor relations policy, and a secret election is the preferred method of gauging choice.” This followed the Second Circuit Court of Appeals decision in 1965 that “[i]t is beyond dispute that a secret election is a more accurate reflection of the employees’ true desires than a check of authorization cards collected at the behest of a union organizer.”

Even politicians who generally toe the union line have stated a preference for elections. In 2001, Reps. George Miller, Barney Frank, Bernie Sanders, Dennis Kucinich, and Fortney Stark were joined by other members of Congress in urging Mexican officials to require secret ballots for union recognition. These American politicians wrote:

… we are writing to encourage you to use the secret ballot in all union recognition elections. We understand that the secret ballot is allowed for, but not required, by Mexican labor law. However, we feel that the secret ballot is absolutely necessary in order to ensure that workers are not intimidated into voting for a union they might not otherwise choose …

A similar letter from Canadian union officials, including current card-check advocate and Canadian Auto Workers president Basil “Buzz” Hargrove, told Mexican President Vicente Fox that a “declaration by the president of the Mexico City labour board that all future [representation elections] under its jurisdiction will be by secret ballot vote is a welcome precedent, and an example for other jurisdictions.”

Yet some in Congress continue to advocate the democratic principle of the secret ballot only when it suits them. Like all of his colleagues in the House leadership, for example, Mr. Miller was elected to the chairmanship of the House Committee on Education and Labor in the 110th Congress via secret ballot.

Rep. Linda Sanchez of California advocated passage of the Employee Free Choice Act at the first House subcommittee hearing on the bill in February 2007. Yet she urged a secret ballot to determine the leadership of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus leadership. “Following the failure of motions to approve CHC officers for the 110th Congress by acclamation, votes by secret ballot were in order but never taken,” Rep. Sanchez complained in a signed letter. She added, “While this request is not likely to change the results, and while it may seem like a formality, it is important that the integrity of the CHC be unquestioned and above reproach.”

In 2006, janitors employed by a contractor with the University of Miami undertook a hunger strike supported by Service Employees International Union (SEIU) officials, who demanded the ability to gain members without a secret ballot election. The dangerous stunt, condoned and briefly joined by SEIU president Andy Stern, led at least four janitors to leave the strike due to health complications, with one suffering a mild stroke. This caused Clinton administration Cabinet secretary and current university president Donna Shalala to argue in favor of secret ballots. She wrote in The Miami Herald that year:

The SEIU wants a process called a “card check’’ that does not guarantee participation by all Unicco employees, and Unicco wants an election for all employees—supervised by the federal government via the National Labor Relations Board.

The SEIU and its supporters are pressuring the university to require Unicco to accept the method that does not guarantee participation by all employees—part of a national campaign by the union. We have said No. The University of Miami—no university, for that matter—could ever argue against an uncoerced election for all workers. Many Unicco employees came to this country seeking freedom and democracy. To deny them the opportunity to exercise the fundamental right of an election would be unconscionable …

We are devastated that the union is risking the health and well-being of our students and the Unicco employees by sanctioning an activity as drastic as a hunger strike. Hunger strikes have never been used in this country to oppose an election.

The case led the Herald to editorialize that “the best way to get an accurate and fair determination of what the workers want is through a secret ballot administered by the National Labor Relations Board.” The newspaper added that “the best chance for fairness consists of taking an accurate count by secret ballot, a staple of our democratic system.”

Editorials in the Hartford Courant echoed these concerns in 2006, when a campaign for card check was led by SEIU and UNITE HERE against a Hartford employer. In May, the paper reported that

… the labor peace agreement would obligate hotel owner Len Wolman of the Waterford Group to permit union organizing under an unfair process in which the union solicits workers’ signatures on cards saying that they would like to join a union. Mr. Wolman would not get to tell the workers his side of the story. If more than half the workers sign the cards, he must immediately negotiate a contract with the union.

Not only is the employer cut out of the process, the request to unionize doesn’t even originate with the workers, whose paychecks would be raided for union dues.

By April 2007, more than a dozen major newspapers had editorialized against card check. This included The Washington Post, which argued that “employees who are skeptical of or opposed to bringing a union into the workplace deserve the protections of a secret-ballot election rather than having to face pressures from colleagues pushing them to sign unionization cards.”

The Economist magazine’s editors noted that “[p]ro-union employees can use peer pressure to coerce reluctant workers; foot-draggers can be threatened with reprisals if the union is certified.”

And now with the Employee Free Choice Act no longer under congressional consideration—at least for the moment in early 2011—it appears unions are pulling out their “Plan B,” that’s been cleverly engineered by pro-union Democrats in Congress and the White House.

Of course, we’re talking about the union-controlled National Labor Relations Board which will, if all goes according to the union masterminds’ plans, do what their allies on Capitol Hill failed to achieve: Empower unions to unionize more companies.’s LaborUnionReport provides the details:

The NLRB doesn’t have the authority to overhaul labor law, but it could make administrative changes to shorten the time between when a union files for a unionization election and when the election is held at a company, a change unions say is needed to cut down on unfair anti-union pressure tactics by employers.

Additionally, before being appointed U.S. Secretary of Labor, Congresswomn Hilda Solis was a board member of Americans Rights at Work, a pro-union mouthpiece that actively lobbied for the Employee Free Choice Act. Solis has since pledged her continued loyalty to union bosses intent on collecting dues from roughly 88% of American workers who have yet to be forced or coerced into unionizing.