Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Private Union votes are essential to workers' rights
One of the oddest things about the Obama Administration is their push to remove the requirement for a private ballot to be cast by a workplace deciding to have a union or not. It is puzzling how any rational political leaders, sans heavy donations from big labor, could think that removing the requirement of private votes on unions help protect workers’ rights or stimulate investment.
Having workers in plants under union consideration be subjected to things like an open vote or simply being signed up as for the union creates the potential for fraud and intimidation, from both sides of the question.
Several unsavory scenarios come to mind if the union vote is not secret or goes to some sort of sign up system. The sign up system being bounced around is troublesome. While the people who propose might be well intentioned, it is very possible those without good intentions on either the management of labor side could show up at a guy’s house one evening, with a couple of menacing characters in tow, and talk about the guy’s children and say nothing but imply a lot for a signature or for the guy not to sign on.
The same is true of the open ballot in the workplace. Suppose a worker works a fairly dangerous job that depends upon co-workers for his very safety. If feelings are hot, that worker would be pressured to vote the way those around him he depends upon feel. The same is true of management. Suppose a worker votes openly for the union, but it fails, then some member of management can put that worker on a list to watch or the like. Of course, people speak of laws against such, but we live in the real world.
And, in the real world when big entities like a big labor union or the management of a big business have big money at stake, they have those among them that will pressure the little man. That is why the secret union ballot is so important. It protects the average worker from the forces around him that have stakes other than his interests involved. It allows the worker to decide his best interests, without retribution. Whether it is collecting his union dues or cutting his pay, most of the time, both sides of a union fight have those among them that are not worried about the working man or woman. That is why the working man and woman must have the most basic of protections: the right to a secret ballot to decide such matters. Without that secret ballot watched over, the United States could go back to the 1930s, when groups of men with ax handles enforced pro union stands and business owners with guns answered them. (As a side not, one of the reasons labor unions are so weak in the South is because of the violence of that era and how families handed down stories about things like the “flying squadrons” that would come into to a mill town and harass it if was not union. You would think that big labor would have learned from that public relations black eye.) The American economy faces enough without reintroducing the hothead approach to labor-management relations.
If the Obama Administration is sincere about helping the working man and woman, it should let them keep their private vote on unions and look into pursuing criminal charges against the big managers on Wall Street who robbed the nation blind. If the Obama Administration actually looked at trying to put away those who took billions of taxpayer money for their own bonuses and retirement packages, they would be offering a change that VUI could start to believe in.