We take it for granted that a vote means a secret ballot, but it was not always that way. Moreover, it will not remain that way for workers who vote on whether or not they want a labor union, if legislation sponsored by congressional Democrats and endorsed by Senator Barack Obama becomes law.
Before there were secret ballots, voters dared not express their true preferences if those who watched them vote could retaliate — whether by firing them, beating them up, or in other ways.
Anyone who is serious about people being free to express themselves with their votes wants a secret ballot.
The problem for labor unions is that workers in the private sector increasingly vote against being represented by unions. The proportion of workers in the private sector who are represented by unions has fallen below 10 percent.
Since unions are losing the game under the current rules, their obvious answer is to change the rules. Specifically, they want to do away with secret ballots when the government conducts elections to determine whether the workers in a particular company or industry want to be represented by a union.
With labor unions being major supporters of the Democratic party — spending hundreds of millions of dollars in this year’s election campaign — it is hardly surprising that congressional Democrats have lined up solidly behind legislation to let union organizers simply collect signed cards from a majority of workers, in order to be certified as the officially recognized union for those workers.
Of course, the union organizers will then know who did and who did not vote for them. And they may have long memories, or short fuses, or both. Moreover, the workers themselves know that, so they may find it prudent to sign up for a union, whether they want one or not.
This legislation passed the House of Representatives last year but did not make it through the Senate. “I will make it the law of the land when I’m President of the United States,” Barack Obama has said to the AFL-CIO.
Senator Obama has also said many times that he is against “special interests.” But, like most politicians who say that, he means that he is against other politicians’ special interests. His own special interests are never called special interests.