Even as voters head to the polls, the secret ballot faces attack

Brian Worth Contributor
Font Size:

As millions of Americans head to the polls to exercise their right to vote privately in today’s elections, the National Labor Relations Board is considering whether to roll back the right to a secret ballot in union organizing in favor of card check.

By now, many have heard of card check as one of the troubling components of the job-killing Employee Free Choice Act, or EFCA. Backed by union special interests and their Congressional allies, the anti-worker bill would effectively strip employees of the right to vote in private when deciding whether or not to join a union. Secret ballots would be replaced by a card-check scheme, where workers sign cards in front of paid union organizers and coworkers. The non-profit Heritage Foundation has estimated that about 100 million Americans could lose their right to a federally protected secret ballot in union organizing elections if EFCA passed.

Thanks to aggressive education efforts and overwhelming grassroots opposition to the bill, EFCA has stalled in Congress. The public’s opposition is based on a number of important factors, not the least of which is that a study by Dr. Anne Layne-Farrar demonstrated the bill’s passage could kill as many as five million jobs.

Union officials have not given up, however. They now are attacking the secret ballot through a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) case known as “Lamons Gasket Company.” The issue in Lamons is whether the NLRB should preserve workers’ right to petition for a secret ballot election in a 45-day window following unionization through a card-check campaign. Without this protection, employees could be denied access to a secret ballot election for up to a year, or possibly more, following card-check unionization.

This week, the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace (CDW) filed a brief signed by more than 225 U.S. business groups urging the NLRB to protect employees’ rights to a secret ballot election and preserve the 45-day window. The broad cross-section of signatories, representing millions of small business owners from across the country, demonstrates the strong consensus in favor of federally supervised private ballot elections when workers are deciding whether or not to join a union.

Ironically, while millions of Americans will cast their votes in private, the NLRB is considering stripping the right for workers to decide whether or not to join a union. Polling has repeatedly shown that American voters—including union households—strongly oppose card check, EFCA and attempts to circumvent the secret ballot. And plenty of candidates—both Republicans and Democrats—have made a point of highlighting their disapproval of EFCA and card check.

CDW and hundreds of associations, representing millions of small businesses, have reminded Washington, D.C., that they don’t support card check by executive action, either. Whether Washington listens to this and similar pleas from job creators may help to shape the outcome of the election two years from now.

Brian Worth is chair of the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace.