Alexander Criticizes Bill to Eliminate Secret Ballots as ‘A Big Step Backwards in Labor Relations’

Union-Backed Legislation ‘Bad for Right-to-Work States Like Tennessee’

Posted on March 27, 2007

U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander today criticized legislation under consideration at a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee that would remove the right to a secret ballot of employees seeking to unionize their workplaces, saying the bill would “transform labor relations in right-to-work states like Tennessee, and not for the better.” “Since the passage of the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, the right to a secret ballot has protected both workers and employers against coercion, guaranteeing that the decision of whether or not to unionize is made fairly and accurately reflects the wishes of a majority of the workforce,” Alexander said. “It’s hard to see how repealing this fundamentally democratic safety measure could be anything other than a big step backwards in labor relations.” As an example, Alexander cited the February testimony of Jen Jason, a former organizer for the 450,000-member UNITE-HERE union, before the House Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions. Jason described what she called typical union tactics of pressuring employees to sign authorization cards, often in their homes, without adequate background information to make an informed decision. “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 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. From my experience, the number of cards signed appear to have little relationship to the ultimate vote count. “The time allocated for [an] 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. When the union is allowed to implement the “card check” strategy, the decision about whether or not an individual employee would choose to join a union is reduced to a crisis decision. This situation is created by the organizer and places the worker into a high pressure sales situation… I have personally heard from workers that they signed the union card simply to get the organizer to leave their home and not harass them further. At no point during a “card check” campaign, is the opportunity created or fostered for employees to seriously consider their working lives and to think about possible solutions to any problems.”