Minority rules

Posted: Feb 17, 2007 12:01 AM

Democracy is pretty straight forward...majority rules.

Our country has gone to great lengths to ensure that everyone is franchised into our democracy. It has been an imperfect struggle, but we are finally at a point where all are equally represented, and their vote is now equal in measure to all other votes cast. As it should be.

Democracy also finds it way into other areas of our lives...neighborhood associations, clubs, social organizations, and unions, all use the "majority rules" concept. We're comfortable with that. It fits. It is right.

But one of the angular attacks on our democracy has been the over-empowerment of the minority. The minority is entitled to its say in nearly every aspect of our state, local, and national governments. They influence, but don’t govern. They share ideas, but there is no guarantee that their ideas will carry the day. They are full participants, but they are not the majority, and since the majority rules, they have a limited say in the outcomes of these deliberative bodies. Power ebbs and flows between the major parties in Congress, as it ebbs and flows in every other aspect of democratic life.

Except I guess for union organizing.

HB1696 is on the fast track to make it through the House of Representatives, and likely, with the Democrats in control of Congress, on its way to law. Yawn…this happens all the time.

HB1696 proposes some nuanced changes to the National Labor Relations Act, and the key provision, under “Streamlining Union Certification” is the apparently innocuous…

“`(6) Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, whenever a petition shall have been filed by an employee or group of employees or any individual or labor organization acting in their behalf alleging that a majority of employees in a unit appropriate for the purposes of collective bargaining wish to be represented by an individual or labor organization for such purposes, the Board shall investigate the petition. If the Board finds that a majority of the employees in a unit appropriate for bargaining has signed authorizations designating the individual or labor organization specified in the petition as their bargaining representative and that no other individual or labor organization is currently certified or recognized as the exclusive representative of any of the employees in the unit, the Board shall not direct an election but shall certify the individual or labor organization as the representative described in subsection (a). (my emphasis)

I work in a successful American industry. We have dozens of manufacturing plants across the country, and we provide live-able wage jobs for our employees, with significant benefits…and we have been the target of union organizing several times over the last decade…let me interpret the above paragraph for those unfamiliar with the union organizing process.

Currently, unions are free to solicit employees concerning their interest in joining a union. Typically this is done through some informational briefings where the union organizers explain the benefits of union representation to those interested in the possibility of being represented by that union. These sessions typically culminate with employees being urged to sign Union Authorization Cards.

Under current law, if a union can present to management a number of cards, equal to or greater than 50% of the employee population, the union can solicit for immediate representation, BUT the employer is not obligated to grant this immediate representation, but may defer instead to hold a secret ballot election.

Oh, and incidentally, there is no standard to which the Union Authorization Cards must be filled out, nor the obligation for the organizers to clearly explain the power of these cards. Often employees feel that they are just showing an interest by signing a card, not understanding how much they are empowering a union that does not yet represent them. In a previous drive at this company over 600 employees demanded their signed cards back because of such misleading tactics, the union refused, and counted those 600 cards towards their potential “membership.” To an unprepared employer, and unwitting employees…simply being presented with a stack of UACs that is equal to fifty percent of the workforce, could mean union representation without a secret ballot, democratic style vote.

A prepared employer would demand a secret ballot vote. Secret ballot voting is a hallmark of democracy in that it removes fear and intimidation from the polling place. It allows people to vote with their conscience, without outside influence. It is a standard pursued by international elections monitoring groups, and indeed it is the only way to truly guarantee that the will of the people is correctly heard.

So why would the Democrats, backed heavily by the AFL-CIO, seek to eliminate this very democratic step in the unionization process?

What the proposed law change means in real terms, is that instead of requiring a democratic style vote to in selecting for or against union representation in the workplace, the simple submission of a majority of UACs would be enough, without a vote, to force workers to be represented by the petitioning union. Without a standard for card submission, or employee ownership of their signed cards, there are no guarantees that a majority of employees would actually be determining the direction for all employees. Without requiring a vote, this law sows the seed for fraud at the worst and malfeasance at the best.

Why would Democrats so precipitously sell out one of our basic democratic principles? Campaign contributions? And why would they be so eager to feed the agenda of one of the most corrupt unions of all times?

Election maneuvering has become a hallmark of the liberal game plan, but disenfranchising employees where they make their living is not liberal, it is criminal.

The union model has broken the US airline industry (sans Southwest), and the US automotive industry. A capricious approach to over-empowering the unions of this country should be carefully considered. Unions have mostly helped themselves over the past forty years, now it appears the Democrats are going to aid and abet in that process…walking on our basic democratic principles along the way.