We Don’t Need No Stinking Elections!

Recently, I wrote a piece where I expressed my concerns about organized labor and their influence on the current presidential election. I cited three specific examples: Senator Obama’s stated intention of ending the consent decree that has the government overseeing the Teamsters and keeping the corruption to a minimum; the Service Employees International Union shaking down its members for “contributions” to their Political Action Committee, in apparent violation of the law; and the disgustingly-misnamed “Employee Free Choice Act,” a bill that would strip employees of the right to vote for or against unionizing in a secret ballot.

The bill, as I said, would allow unions to organize by an alternate method. Instead of a vote where each worker could, in private, cast their ballot for or against joining a union without fear of intimidation, the unions could simply collect a signed pledge card from a majority of the workers.

I think it’s fairly obvious that this method would supplant the voting method in a majority of cases, as it would be a hell of a lot easier to collect the cards than to try to win a vote.

My main concern was potential intimidation of workers by union organizers, as that has historically been a union tactic. And I see that my concerns were well grounded.

Former union organizer Jennifer Jones, speaking under oath before Congress, told how these “card checks” are conducted:

A “card check” campaign begins with union organizers going to the homes of workers over a weekend, a tactic called “housecalling,” with the sole intent of having those workers sign authorization cards. Called a “blitz” by the unions, it entails teams of two
or more organizers going directly to the homes of workers. The workers’ personal information and home addresses used during the blitz was obtained from license plates and other sources that were used to create a master list.

In most cases, the workers have no idea that there is a union campaign underway. Organizers are taught to play upon this element of surprise to get “into the door.” They are trained to perform a five part house call strategy that includes: Introductions, Listening, Agitation, Union Solution, and Commitment. The goal of the organizer is to quickly establish a trust relationship with the worker, move from talking about what their job entails to what they would like to change about their job, agitate them by insisting that management won’t fix their workplace problems without a union and finally convincing the worker to sign a card.

At the time, I personally took great pride in the fact that I could always get the worker to sign the card if I could get inside their home. Typically, if a worker signed a card, it had nothing to do with whether a worker was satisfied with the job or felt they were treated fairly by his or her boss. I found that most often it was the skill of the organizer to create issues from information the organizer had extracted from the worker during the “probe” stage of the house call that determined whether the worker signed the card.

I began to realize that the number of cards that were signed had less to do with support for the union and more to do with the effectiveness of the organizer speaking to the workers.

This appears to be consistent with results of secret ballot elections that are conducted in which workers are able to vote and make their final decision free from manipulation, intimidation or pressure tactics from either side.

From my experience, the number of cards signed appear to have little relationship to the ultimate vote count. During a private election campaign, even though a union still sends organizers out to workers’ homes on frequent canvassing in attempts to gain support, the worker has a better chance to get perspective on the questions at hand. The time allocated for the election to go forward allows the worker a chance to think through his or her own issues without undue influence–thus avoiding an immediate, impulsive decision based on little or no fact. After all, the decision to join a union is often life-changing, and workers should be afforded the time to debate, discuss and research all of the options available to them.

As an organizer working under a “card check” system versus an election system, I knew that “card check” gave me the ability to quickly agitate a set of workers into signing cards. I did not have to prove the union’s case, answer more informed questions from workers or be held accountable for the service record of my union.

(Hat tip: King Banian of Outside The Beltway)

Let’s look at this strategy from the viewpoint of the worker. You’re at home, relaxing. There’s a knock at the door. There are two or more people you’ve never seen before. They inform you that they’re from Union X, and they know all about you. They know where you work, where you live, what car you drive, what your license plate is, and probably a bunch more personal information you’d rather not have shared by complete strangers. They’d like to come in and talk to you. This could be the very first time you’ve heard that there is an effort to get a union into your workplace, and these people (as she notes, there are at least two of them) want you to decide, right then and there, for now and all time, whether or not you want to join their union. You don’t get to hear your employer’s position, you probably can’t check in with any of your colleagues, and there are these folks in your own home who want an answer now.

Those (like me) who get annoyed at Jehovah’s Witnesses showing up at their door need little more convincing.

That these “blitzes” are going on now are troubling — the unions aren’t required to even notify the workers in advance that they might be visited at home by union organizers. But for these “blitzes” to not just lead up to an eventual secret ballot, but supplant it entirely, ought to scare the bejeezus out of anyone with even a fraction of a brain.

This bill is nothing less than an attempt by unions to legalize kidnapping. It would strip workers of their right to say “no” to unions in private, without fear of retribution. The secret ballot is a beautiful thing here — it insulates the workers from individual retaliation from either side for expressing their preference. Both the employer and the union can engage in collective retaliation against the entire work force, but that has its limitations. For one, it’s illegal. For another, as the unions are wont to point out, there is strength in numbers. Without the ability to single out individuals who voted one way or another, the threat of striking back is considerably weakened.

The irony here is appalling. The unions claim to represent the workers, but are working frantically to strip them of their power to act freely and without fear. And they are being aided and abetted by the Democratic party in this move to kill one of the purest expressions of democracy — the sanctity of the voting booth.

And if you have the slightest doubt about how well the “Employee Free Choice Act” (good god, I want to throw up every time I see or type that monstrosity of a misnaming), just listen to Ms. Jones. She knows precisely how it would work, because she spent years doing it.

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