IPFS Vin Suprynowicz

The Libertarian

Vin Suprynowicz

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If a union offers to serve as bargaining agent for the workers at a given workplace -- in exchange for considerable dues -- but it turns out that in a secret-ballot election the majority of those workers would oppose unionization, then the law should dictate that said workplace a) be unionized; b) not be unionized.

If you answered “a,” hang onto your hat, because you might well be in line for highly paid employment as a union lobbyist, or even as a Democratic member of Congress anxious to repay union support by “tilting the playing field” till it’s “just right.”

American unions have a problem, you see. They’re doing fine recruiting government workers -- where the only limit to pay and benefit hikes is “what the municipality can afford” (since captive “customers” can’t go elsewhere for such “services” as staffing the firehouses and enforcing the zoning codes.)

But in the private sector, where employers must compete or lose market share to increasingly efficient foreigners, the unions’ share of the American workplace pie has been plummeting for 50 years.

Union membership dropped from 20 percent of wage and salary workers in 1983 to 12 percent in 2006. If you don’t count government workers, that percentage drops to 7.4 percent. Unions lost 300,000 dues-paying members last year alone.

Mind you, they’ve brought some of their miseries on themselves -- embracing all sorts of wacky far-left social agendas alien to rank-and-file workers, in defiance of George Meany’s sensible advice to concentrate on wages and benefits while remaining rigorously non-partisan, thus leaving themselves “in play.”

But some of the problems can doubtless be pinned on a changing world, where ever fewer workers show up with a lunch pail at 8 a.m. to man a factory assembly line.

Modern white-collar workers with more flexible schedules and responsibilities have trouble seeing the benefit of paying for fixed, union-style “workplace rules.” For this and other reasons, the unions have been losing secret-ballot workplace elections hand-over-fist.

But not to worry -- the union bosses have come up with a solution -- one that even sounds “democratic.”

Instead of requiring secret-ballot elections, all they need for Congress to dictate is that workplaces can be unionized based on a “card count.”

The way a card count differs from a secret ballot election is that two or three union bruisers can corner an employee in the rest room, in the parking lot at night, even while “stopping by the house.” Once the employee has signed his or her card -- with the “help” of the union’s convincers -- that card is turned in as a “vote” in favor of unionization, until the union reaches 50 percent plus one.

Sound far-fetched? Voting 241-185 almost exactly along party lines, the Democrat-dominated House of Representatives voted on Feb. 28 to “take away the right of employers to demand secret-ballot elections by workers before unions could be recognized.” The Democrat majority did this to “reward organized labor ... for helping them retake control of Congress,” The Associated Press reported.

“It’s simply about establishing fairness in the workplace,” explained House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.

No, it was actually about “taking care of union bosses,” replied Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio.

It’s all about “the rule of the majority free from intimidation and about protecting jobs,” explained House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who doesn’t seem to have noticed all those former union textile factories standing idle from Maine to the Carolinas as we now import our towels and shirts from Hong Kong, Guatemala and Indonesia.

Labor groups argue secret-ballot elections have become a means for employers to “intimidate” workers into rejecting unions.

Do employers reluctant to share decision-making prerogatives with union bosses warn employees of possible bad outcomes for the firm should a union be allowed in? Sure. Do they exaggerate? Sometimes, no doubt.

But workers are grown-ups. How this translates into “intimidation” of a worker casting an anonymous ballot in the privacy of the voting booth under supervision of the strongly pro-union National Labor Relations Board has never been satisfactorily explained.

If this is a better means of “free choice,” why not allow our presidential and congressional elections to also be decided by party operatives going door-to-door and collecting signature cards? Heck, why not allow these card-collectors to try “carrot-and-stick,” carrying large clubs but also handing out hundred-dollar bills for each signature?

Winning honors as the young year’s most misleading moniker to date, sponsors dub the bill the “Employee Free Choice Act.”

“Employee Free Choice”? By being cheated of the opportunity to cast a secret ballot, instead being “allowed” to fill out a card with a couple of bruisers leaning over their shoulders to see what they write? Imagine how the unions would respond if employers got Congress to pass an “Employee Free Choice Act” that allowed the boss to have you sign a binding “No union for me” card before you started work.

What would be the difference?

Just to make everything clear, Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon of California offered a substitute guaranteeing rights to a secret ballot. It was defeated, 256-173.

Fortunately, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has pledged to block the bill in the Senate, and the White House says the president will veto the thing if it reaches his desk.

But of course ... there’s always 2009.