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Tue Dec 11, 2012, 11:01 PM

Va. bill aims to protect secret union ballot

Source: Washington Post

Va. bill aims to protect secret union ballot
23 minutes ago
By Laura Vozzella,

Michigan isn’t the only place where the GOP is trying to rein in unions.

In Virginia, already a right-to-work state, the Senate’s Privileges and Elections Committee recently passed a bill that calls for amending the state’s constitution to guarantee voter privacy in union elections.

Held over from the 2012 General Assembly session, the bill is expected to come to the Senate floor in the session that opens Jan. 9.

“This amendment is essential if we are going to preserve voter integrity and privacy,” said Sen. Bryce Reeves (R-Spotsylvania), who introduced the measure. “No citizen should be forced to reveal how they voted in any election, be it a federal, state, local or a union election.”

Reeves’s bill is a response to proposed federal legislation to allow workers to organize by getting their co-workers to sign pro-union cards, a method known as “card check,” instead of by holding secret-ballot elections.


Read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/va-politics/va-bill-aims-to-protect-secret-union-ballot/2012/12/11/9655f2da-43fb-11e2-8061-253bccfc7532_story.html

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Arrow 8 replies Author Time Post
Reply Va. bill aims to protect secret union ballot (Original post)
Judi Lynn Dec 2012 OP
madrchsod Dec 2012 #1
AtheistCrusader Dec 2012 #2
Jim Lane Dec 2012 #3
AtheistCrusader Dec 2012 #4
Jim Lane Dec 2012 #5
underoath Dec 2012 #6
underoath Dec 2012 #7
Jim Lane Dec 2012 #8

Response to Judi Lynn (Original post)

Tue Dec 11, 2012, 11:39 PM

1. dam these people have a hard time with democracy

they`ll do anything to restrict the rights of people to unionize.

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Response to madrchsod (Reply #1)

Wed Dec 12, 2012, 01:29 AM

2. Isn't the secret ballot sort of a democratic cornerstone?

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Response to AtheistCrusader (Reply #2)

Wed Dec 12, 2012, 05:22 AM

3. A fair election is a democratic cornerstone.

We should have a system in which workers' rights to organize are fully protected. They should be free to seek unionization -- the most important point being effective protection against retaliatory discharge by anti-union management, although there are other necessary safeguards as well.

If we had that system, then I would be OK with doing without card check. (Card check is a legislative proposal addressing the situation in which management is presented with representation cards signed by a majority of the employees. Under current law, management can demand a secret-ballot election, to ensure that workers' right not to unionize was adequately protected. Card check means that cards signed by the majority would suffice to establish the union as the employees' bargaining representative, without a secret-ballot election.)

We no longer have even an approximation of a fair system, however. The protections of the National Labor Relations Act have become a joke. Companies that fire union organizers can expect no serious consequences, merely a small payment imposed years later. Even that feeble level of protection has been undercut by Republican obstructionism of appointments to the National Labor Relations Board, depriving it of a quorum to do anything at all for long periods.

If Republicans are serious about protecting workers' democratic rights, let them show the same zeal in protecting the right to unionize that they do in protecting the right to reject unionization. Until then, I'm a reluctant supporter of card check. It's not a good solution, but enacting card check in the context of our current dysfunctional system would make that system somewhat more fair, overall.

As an aside, I favor the secret ballot in elections for public office, but it's not a democratic cornerstone in the sense of having been understood as part of democracy from the beginning. At the time of the adoption of the Constitution, voters (white male property owners) would vote by orally announcing their choice in a public forum. The first use of the secret ballot in the United States was in Massachusetts in 1888.

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Response to Jim Lane (Reply #3)

Wed Dec 12, 2012, 11:25 AM

4. Thanks for that.

I had entirely forgotten about the initial method of rendering votes in this country, and how long that lasted.

Isn't there an option to have the unionization vote held by the state government? like a political party primary? I'm sure there would be a cost associated with it, and it is a barrier to getting it done, but it would at least be fairly secure from the employer messing with it in that case.

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Response to AtheistCrusader (Reply #4)

Thu Dec 13, 2012, 04:28 AM

5. The problem isn't chicanery in the counting of the votes.

The election is conducted by the National Labor Relations Board, not by the employer, so substituting the state government wouldn't accomplish much.

In any event, the count is generally thought to be accurate. The problem is in the run-up to the vote, where there are two major categories of issues. First, the law gives management significant advantages in the campaigning, such as the ability to require workers to attend anti-union meetings. Second, if management isn't satisfied with its legal advantages, it can get away with using illegal methods, such as firing pro-union employees.

One advantage of card check is that the union can avoid some of these problems with a stealth campaign. Organizers can privately talk to workers and get them to sign representation cards. In the ideal case, management has no idea that there's an organizing drive afoot until the organizers proudly present them with the signed cards. Under current law, without card check, management can demand an election and then swing into action to poison the waters before the vote.

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Response to Jim Lane (Reply #5)

Thu Dec 13, 2012, 11:49 AM

6. but even without card check you can still get a majority vote to have a union.

 

I just like the idea that the vote is secret and that no one can intimidate you because of how you voted.

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Response to Jim Lane (Reply #3)

Thu Dec 13, 2012, 11:51 AM

7. you favor the secret ballot in elections for public office but not for unions?

 

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Response to underoath (Reply #7)

Thu Dec 13, 2012, 01:10 PM

8. I favor fair elections.

As I thought my post made clear, the best system for union elections is one that protects workers' rights:
(1) Workers' right to unionize is protected against management intimidation by fair election rules that are actually enforced.
(2) Workers' right not to unionize is protected against union intimidation by a secret ballot.

It's misguided, however, to make a fetish out of point (2) while ignoring point (1). As long as management is permitted to get away with just about anything, card check can reduce the effect of intimidation by management. Back here in the real world, management misconduct is a much greater problem than union misconduct. A secret ballot isn't much protection if management can fire anyone who even tries to organize a union in the first place. Under those conditions, you won't have a secret ballot because you won't have a ballot because no organizer will last long enough to get signatures on the required number of representation cards.

The present dysfunctional system would be better with card check than without it. The best system, however, would include a secret ballot AND some changes in the NLRA combined with enforcement of current provisions of the NLRA that are now widely flouted.

Any analogy to public elections has to be considered in light of the question: Does this analogy make sense in a context in which one side (the equivalent of one political party) can fire voters it doesn't like?

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