Harry Reid, Unions and Secret Ballots
One of the most sacred rights Americans enjoy and have enjoyed from the earliest days of our Republic is the secret ballot. With minor exceptions over the years, when one casts a vote privacy is assured. Many states have laws that prohibit politics 100 feet from the sidewalk to the voting booth.
Each law varies and people often try to take advantage of those laws, which is why most states permit poll-watchers, often hired by political parties. If a voter encounters someone breaking the law, the voter may approach a poll-watcher to alert the police. I mention this because Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-NV) is about to bring a so-called Card Check Bill to the Senate Floor. In short this bill would deprive workers of the right to a secret ballot when determining whether to have union representation at a personís work place.
Let me explain. Labor unions have been in a state of decline for decades. When I was a child, I remember my parents discussing the many labor-union strikes around the nation. The worst strike was that organized by the President of the United Mine Workers of America, John L. Lewis. At the time Americans were dependent on coal to heat their homes, often in harsh winters. Lewis all but ground the coal mines to a halt in the late 1940s.
The next prize is awarded to United Automobile Workers (UAW) President Walter P. Reuther. He would get automakers to capitulate to a highly favorable contract, then play the automobile manufacturers against one another. To this day, we are paying for contracts with outrageous benefits negotiated in the 1950s. The automobile industry is non-competitive with foreign companies, not because we canít build a decent automobile but because wages and benefits are so high that comparable cars are overpriced.
I digress. I mention this background because during the 1950s approximately one in three workers belonged to a union. Currently the figure is approximately one in twelve. First, firms without labor unions have been able to offer better packages than companies represented by unions. Second, some companies which had unions voted them out. Of course, the unions blame supposed intimidation by representatives of companies in the private sector for their plight.
Until recently workers have had secret ballots. No matter what a company does or say (which is strictly regulated by law) workers can vote unions up or down. The so-called Card Check Bill would require workers to fill out a card right in front of union organizers. Opponents of this anti-democratic measure, including the National Right-to-Work Committee, have sponsored television advertisements featuring mock student elections. The campaign managers for one candidate announce that there will no longer be secret ballots. Rather, students will complete cards and the managers, all wearing sunglasses and looking like a gang, will collect them. The final scene is one of the gang members standing by a young girl who obviously has checked her ballot for the other guy. The thug looks at the card and then the girl and says, ďAre you sure about that?Ē
President George W. Bush is certain to veto this bill if it reaches his desk. So why is Reid scheduling a vote? As John Fund of the WALL STREET JOURNAL mentioned, this is organized laborís number one priority. Apparently, unions have spent millions to ensure that Senator Reid is Majority Leader.
Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao has crusaded against this bill with great fervor. She fully understands that if workers lose their right to a secret ballot it may help the unions but American labor would be the poorer because of it.
The unions want this vote in order to justify spending millions to defeat, for example, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL). He is one of the most principled conservatives in the Senate. Alabama is a right-to-work state. Ordinarily Sessions would have no problem winning a third term. But if $450 million is spent by the unions and other allies such as MoveOn.Org are spending $50 million, Sessions may not have a chance. This is why Reid will risk losing the Card Check vote. He thinks he will win by losing. He would rather have that target on Sessionsí back (and that of many, many others) than win that vote.
Paul M. Weyrich is Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.
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