The UFW is trying to alter the very 1975 farm labor agreement that its founder, the late Cesar Chavez, fought so long and hard for. One of the 1975 law's key provisions was a guarantee of secret ballot elections for farm-worker unions who felt the laws in place at the time allowed intimidation by employers.
In neighboring Oregon, both legislative chambers have now passed a bill allowing public-sector unions to bypass union-recognition elections in favor of the card check model. The Salem Statesman Journal reports that legislators have largely ignored complaints from some adult foster-care providers that during a recent union drive "activists used deceptive means to persuade workers to sign union-authorization cards."
No wonder a group called Oregon Taxpayers United is close to collecting enough signatures to qualify a ballot measure that would prohibit government employee unions in the state from collecting money from members for political purposes. The group's head, Bill Sizemore, reports that the measure enjoys 67% support in polls. A similar law was just last week unanimously upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned a Washington state Supreme Court decision that went in favor of the unions.
Unions have a right to participate vigorously in the democratic process, and they take full advantage of it. That's why it is so jarring to see them support a measure that tampers with the sacred right to use a secret ballot when deciding something as critical as who will speak for people in the workplace.
Indeed, many of the congressional supporters of a card-check law sang an entirely different tune a few years ago about the importance of a secret ballot. In 2001, Rep. George Miller of California, the chief House sponsor of the card check bill, joined Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts and 14 other Democratic colleagues in writing Mexican labor authorities that "we feel that the secret ballot is absolutely necessary in order to ensure that workers are not intimidated into voting for a union they might not otherwise choose." Apparently, a secret ballot is imperative to protect Mexican workers, but on the U.S. side of the border it's an impediment to Mr. Miller's domestic political agenda.
Look for the card check issue to become a part of the 2008 presidential race, since it's almost guaranteed this will be one issue dividing the Democratic and Republican nominees.
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