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Duane Sand, Published April 26 2009

Free choice act erodes free choice

Much has been said and written about the Employee Free Choice Act making its way through Congress. To cut through the rhetoric and propaganda from both sides, it is necessary to first review how the systems for unionizing operate now and compare that to what the proposed changes actually mean to businesses and, more importantly, workers.

Under current law, when 30 percent of workers in a selected workplace sign a card saying they would like to have the option to unionize via election, the employer then has 90 days to set an election. Within that election, a secret ballot is used and 50 percent plus 1 is the simple majority threshold to create the union within a selected workplace. Then the contract negotiation process begins.

What EFCA proposes to do is eliminate the election altogether by saying “if 50%+1 of the workforce signs the card, there will be no election (unless the employees call for it themselves).” The employer would no longer have the ability to call for a secret ballot election. Unions say this will streamline the process.

The problem unions fail to acknowledge is that many of those who sign the card do so just to get the union organizer to go away. This process does not take into account the reasoning for signing the card; it only counts the signature.

Having collected signatures for an initiated measure last year, I can tell you that many people will sign a petition just to get it on the ballot even if they plan to vote no.

Last year, the U.S. House voted in favor of the bill, including Congressman Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D. The Senate declined to take action because leadership knew they did not have the votes. Sens. Kent Conrad and Byron Dorgan were co-sponsors last year but did not co-sponsor this year’s version in the Senate, trying to distance themselves from it suddenly.

To sum it all up, the Employee Free Choice Act eliminates the automatic election and eliminates the employer’s ability to call for an election. Because it eliminates both the automatic election and the employer’s ability to call for an election, the right of the secret ballot is repealed. Obviously, if there is no election, there can be no secret ballot.

A secret ballot protects the minority.

If the union fails to gain support of the work force, why should the employer get to see who supported the losing side?

If the union wins the election, why should union leaders know who voted against the union?

It’s basic fairness. The current system has worked since the 1930s. If it was good enough for Franklin Roosevelt, it’s good enough for us.

Sand was the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2000 and the U.S. House in 2004 and 2008.