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What's Wrong With a Secret Ballot Election to Form a Union?

I want to know.

11 comments to What's Wrong With a Secret Ballot Election to Form a Union?

    • Jim

      No, it doesn’t help at all.

      All Ezra Klein does in that rather short article is explain the current bill before Congress, which would, according to my understanding (please correct me if I’m wrong) institute card check unless a majority of workers publicly affirmed they wanted a secret ballot instead. That’s not addressing my question; it’s addressing a different question.

      The discussion that follows in the E.K. comments says that employers are mean and would intimidate people for their vote. That at least is an attempt to answer the question. But the answer doesn’t make sense to me for a very basic reason. In a secret ballot vote, the EMPLOYER DOESN’T KNOW WHO VOTED HOW. In a card check system, the employers are much more likely to find out who supported the union and who didn’t. So the “employers would intimidate workers more in a secret ballot system” just doesn’t make sense on the face of it.

      So I ask the question again:

      What’s Wrong With a Secret Ballot Election to Form a Union?

  • Tom

    What’s wrong with it is that the corporate overlords would lose some control of their slaves and the often miserable working conditions, policies, low wages and long hours they’ve beaten the workforce down with for the past decade. Now that they basically own the government, why should they reliquish any power they have to fire people at will, keep wages depressed and psyches rattled?

    The corporate sector’s lobbyists are working tirelessly to sway the votes of our Congresspeople (they have Spector in their camp now) so that the Wal-Marts, Home-Depots, and the like don’t have to worry about driving people into the ground, using them up and discarding them like so much toilet paper, and ruling with an iron hand on all personnel matters, since they can just take their pick of THOUSANDS of applicants who are desperate and out of work. “Wanna keep yer job? Then don’t vote to start a union, got it?”

    It’s despicable that the corporate sector has ruined our country using democracy and capitalism as their weapons. It’s really a shame that our political system has become so corrupted that it no longer works for us. No one is lobbying for us and i’m not sure our representatives feel for us at all, since they’re trying to get re-elected and need MONEY which the corporate sector has and the citizens, thanks to usurious banking practices, don’t.

  • Bruce Dekalb, IL

    This is so easy it hurts. Unions way back when wanted secret ballots because the employers would intimidate the workers. Now times have changed workers as a rule are fairly treated with fair pay and benefits. Unions need to convince workers that they (the workers) need their (unions) help. So now no secret ballot. Simple no?

  • Bruce Dekalb, IL

    Hey Tom don’t work for bad employers. It’s a free country still. Government control equals prosperity for all that’s why the soviets did so well. LOL

  • Tom

    Don’t be naive Bruce, workers are definitely NOT, by and large, being treated “fairly” with respect to wages (having been stagnant for the past 8 years and now frozen), hours (overtime has been cut in most corporations and the amount of work being required of less staff to do the same job, on the threat of being fired for non-performance, keeps increasing), and working conditions are becoming extremely stressful (corporations are looking for ANY reason to fire employees: lateness, where traffic is no excuse, for example, and one can be fired for NO reason in my state).

    You are correct in that it’s easy, for the corporate sector (who have systematically taken over our government via being granted the same rights as people in a court case a while back and through lobbyists).

  • Becky Young

    Secret ballot or none, if there’s going to be a vote to join a union, the crooks that will benefit the most will be out in force either buying or bullying for the votes. Personally, I’d rather see a drug cartel move in my neighborhood. At least they wouldn’t FORCE me to use drugs. They would just operate illegally all around me. Unions are a terrible idea and if you don’t believe me, look at the UAW. What have they gotten for all their trouble? The government MADE them renegotiate their contracts to lower wages. Bet they were all pissed when they realized their “bought and paid for” elected officials in Washington let them down.

  • bob snow

    i belonged to and work as a union steward for over 37 years.APWU.mgt never gave us any thing out of the goodness of their hearts.you can thank unions for seniority in the work place,higher wages,sick leave,paid vacations,health benefits.retirement plans.women used to be fired and replaced for having childern.unions made this country what it is today.after all this i whole heartedly believe in the secret ballot.my union was not a closed shop.yet 96%of workers joined the union.without a union,you are at the mercy of mgt.my advise for scabs is.dont get old,or sick,or pregnant,dont dare speak out against mgt.

  • direct action

    This is an extremely old thread but I’ll answer the original question anyway, since no one in the thread managed to do so and some folks wondering the same thing about secret ballots might stumble upon it. Scroll down to where I’ve bolded if you want to cut straight to the answer without any contextual information. The problem with secret ballots isn’t so much the concept of a secret ballot itself; people who support the “card check” (i.e. majority sign-up) method aren’t against the idea of the workers of the shop voting in secret on whether or not to join the union. The problem with secret ballots revolves entirely around practical realities of the attempt to unionize, which are still present with card check, but grossly magnified with the secret ballot “election” system. With very few exceptions, attempts to unionize are resisted heavily by employers. Employers hire anti-unionization “consultants” who help them develop strategies to avoid the employees unionizing and sometimes participate directly in activities designed to prevent the shop’s unionization. Employees are intimidated and bribed individually, known pro-union “agitators” among the workforce are fired (these can be long-time employees who are pro-union and try to get their fellow workers to support the idea, or they can be “salts”, experienced labor organizers who maintain employment with the particular company for the sole purpose of helping the workforce unionize), and there are a host of other strategies and tactics employers use to keep in place the system of employment contracts that exist on an entirely individual basis rather than have to deal with contracts between employer and “bargaining unit” (in NLRB terms, the union).

    The reason that the secret ballot system is resisted by union members, pro-union workers, organizers, and activists is that these problems are intensified under it as compared with the majority sign-up method. The essence of it is that there are many things an employer can do to delay the actual vote via secret ballot and make it take much, much longer from the beginning of the unionization process (identifying a union for which the shop would create a local, talking to fellow employees about unionizing) to the end (certification of the local and the start of collective bargaining negotiations between the union and the employer). For instance, the employer can play a game with the NLRB that revolves around determining who among the entire body of employees is eligible to vote and who isn’t. This isn’t designed to make for an accurate election, but to delay the election process. While the secret ballot vote is being delayed, the above listed anti-unionization tactics — most of which are technically illegal but rarely enforced by the NLRB — are used against the employees and their supporters. This is much less of an issue with the card check system, which allows employees to unionize comparatively quickly.

    The driving goal behind the fully-intact EFCA (it’s basically dead in the water now, but before it was successfully stalled in Congress, legislators had intended to remove the card-check provision which would have made the EFCA essentially pointless) isn’t to prevent secret ballot elections for unionization, but to allow employees to decide whether or not they wanted to vote via majority sign-up/card-check or secret ballot. Pro-union resistance to eliminating the card check option doesn’t come from a desire to be undemocratic or to force every employee to cast their vote before the eyes of everyone else and thus be subject to pro-union intimidation; it comes from a desire to have the best chance of being able to unionize. The longer the process of unionization takes, the more favorable that process is to employers who want to prevent their workers from unionizing.

    Hope that helps.

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