The House has passed legislation that would give unions broad new powers to unionize without holding a secret ballot of employees, which could very easily lead to intimidation of workers who choose not to unionize. This legislation is purely a sop to Big Labor and a strike against the rights of American workers to have their decisions to unionize or not be a matter of individual concern, free from intimidation.
Megan McArdle makes a very valid point about this legislation:
Let me put it another way. What do pro-union organisers think of card check–and delivering the cards to employers as well as union organisers with no penalty, should the union fail, for firing or otherwise making life miserable for the yes votes? If you think that this is in some way wrong on principle, then how is it not wrong for unions?
The reality is that not every worker wants a union. The mythology that unions are the great protectors of the interests of the American worker is largely one of viewing unions through rose-colored glasses. Is a worker in a Toyota plant so much worse off than a worker in a GM plant? The answer is clearly no — those workers know that they are far more likely not to get laid off in the near future, and still make nearly as much as their unionized counterparts while enjoying roughly equivalent benefits. That worker has a right to make an informed decision about the benefits and drawbacks of unionization and do so without worrying that either the union or their employer can retaliate against them for their vote.
Mickey Kaus raises yet another important point:
The idea of requiring a union, without a secret ballot election, if labor organizers can obtain a majority of “cards” from employees seems like both a big idea and a bad idea. (See below.) If Republicans were smart and confident, wouldn’t they make a big deal of this–drag the debate in Congress out to give it more prominence, highlighting Obama’s support for this change which (more than any tax cut) would alter the very texture of the economy?Voters–even many socially liberal peacenik voters–traditionally worry that if Dems gain full power they will a) serve their special interests and b) cripple American capitalism in a fit of leftish nostalgia. This bill legitimately triggers both fears. …
He’s right. This is an extremely ill-considered bill that hurts American workers. Only a small minority (7%) of American workers are unionized, and that isn’t due to the usual claims of employee intimidation. As Kaus notes, the union system isn’t a good thing for most workers, especially in an age of unprecedented economic flexibility. One can make an argument that in a system where one works for the same company all their working lives it makes sense to have a union — but that just isn’t the case anymore. Collective bargaining has its place, but the idea that unionization is an absolute good ignores the reality that union workers are losing their jobs while non-union workers have more economic stability without sacrificing much in the way of wages and benefits.
Even if one thinks that unions are generally good for workers, it’s still ridiculous to argue that eliminating secret ballot requirements is a smart thing to do. If the requirement cut the other way — the law required unionization votes to be reported to employers, the labor movement would be up in arms. So why should the same principle not apply to unions?
This was a sop to the Big Labor base that is exercising a disproportionate amount of control over the Democratic Party these days. It’s poor policy and it is wrong for American workers. Kaus is right — the Republicans should be all over this and they should be highlighting why it’s wrong for American workers. The choice to unionize should be a real choice, and removing the ability to force a secret ballot on this issue invites unions to engage in coercion and intimidation. The Senate should ensure that provision dies, and if they do not, the President should ensure that this bill is vetoed.