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Published: Saturday, 2/14/2009

Secret ballot must remain in union election

BY ROGER R. GEIGER

THINK about the last time you went to the polls to vote. Your voting booth had a curtain on the back and/or little walls on three sides. You walked up to the booth alone and there wasn't anyone looking over your shoulder as you marked your choices. There certainly wasn't a campaign staffer nearby urging you to vote for his or her boss. The person who handed you your ballot didn't tell you that it would be in your best interest to vote one way or another on a certain issue. These sorts of things would be against the law, right?

Well, for the time being they are. But a law being floated in Washington would endanger the secret ballot for many Americans facing votes to unionize their workplaces. This legislation was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2007 before it was set aside. Union bosses have revived it and are pushing to get it enacted in order to boost their dwindling membership numbers and force American workers to line their campaign coffers.

The Employee Free Choice Act, or as we call it, the Employee Forced Choice Act, would do away with the secret ballot in determining whether employees want to unionize. Under it, organizers would no longer need a ratifying vote to unionize a workplace. Instead, they would only need a majority of employees to sign authorization cards. Once a union collected signed cards from a majority of employees, the workplace would be unionized. To be perfectly clear, a worker isn't given one of these authorization cards and then encouraged to go off alone to secretly decide whether or not to sign it. There is no anonymous ballot box for submitting a folded authorization card. Instead, union organizers and pro-union coworkers present these cards to employees and ask for a signature on the spot.

But the most troubling aspect of this plan is the provision that mandates compulsory, binding arbitration as part the collective bargaining process. If a card-check organizing drive is successful, an employer has 120 days to accept the union's contract offer. If they do not agree to a contract during that time, the bill mandates that a federal arbiter would come in and decide the terms of the contract.

For a small, independent business owner, this would be catastrophic. Not only could they be organized without their knowledge or participation, but they would be put into a position where they can no longer set the wage and benefit terms for their workforce.

If signed into law, this legislation would be a devastating blow to entrepreneurship and job creation

In addition, the EFCA could apply to any business with employees, no matter how few or how many, and there is no requirement that the employer be informed of the unionization effort. As such, an employer would have little or no opportunity to present opposing information, and employees would be cheated out of the courtesy of hearing both sides.

In fact, employees might be led to believe that signing an authorization card only indicates an interest in unionization, instead of being tantamount to voting to ratify a union. No one is charged with the responsibility to clear up such a misunderstanding.

The EFCA was crafted this way by unions who are desperate to stop hemorrhaging members. Currently, only about 7 percent of the U.S. private sector workforce is unionized, the lowest level since the early 1900s. It's easy to see this legislation is not about worker's rights or free choice for employees, but rather about union efforts to replenish their ranks and coffers.

It's hard to believe legislation like this could be seriously considered in the United States of America, but as was mentioned previously, it already has passed the U.S. House of Representatives once. Those of us who truly believe in freedom of choice and the secret ballot must stand up now and make our voices heard.

Please visit www.my

privateballot.com to sign a petition against the EFCA and make sure your elected officials understand the danger this legislation poses to our way of life.

Roger R. Geiger is vice president and executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business in Ohio, an advocacy group for small businesses.



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