One piece of good news out of Washington yesterday was the decision among supporters of the Orwellian-named Employee Free Choice Act to dump a provision that would have virtually eliminated the secret ballot in union-organizing elections.
The bill is the number-one legislative priority of major U.S. labor unions. It is packed with provisions aimed at making it easier for unions to organize workplaces and halt the relentless 40-year slide in private-sector union membership.
The jettisoned provision would have allowed unions to organize a workplace simply by “persuading” a majority of workers to sign cards saying they want a union. Of course, such a system would leave individual workers wide open to intimidation, as I explained in a recent op-ed. Business-funded ads against the measure struck a cord with voters who are understandably fond of the secret ballot, and the provision became a step too far for moderate Democrats.
What remains of the bill is still bad news. It would reduce the typical union-organizing election from two months to as short as five days. This is a provision that could only be favored by the side that wants workers to be deprived of the information and the time they need to make an informed decision. And it would force employers to accept the decision of a government arbitration panel even if the resulting union contract would threaten the company’s survival.
University of Chicago law professor Richard Epstein explained cogently in a recent cover story for Cato’s Regulation magazine why the the bill is fundamentally at odds with our basic constitutional rights.