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January 25, 2009

What’s wrong with secret ballots?

I wish Bob Kanatzar (1/14, Letters) would explain how it would infringe on the rights of workers to have them vote by secret ballot on whether to have a union represent them in negotiations with their employer.

It’s a secret ballot, Bob. Having the person vote for a union by having a card thrust in his or her face by a co-worker or union organizer and being told, “Everybody wants a union — you do too, don’t you?” is not secret. Pressure can be brought to bear by the union organizer or the co-worker who hopes to become the new union shop steward.

Having that signed card now take the place of the secret ballot is not attempting to level a playing field. It’s an attempt to railroad and pressure workers into joining a union.

Unions that want to organize a workplace make a lot of promises. The only one I guarantee they will keep is their promise to collect dues.

Mike Thompson
Sibley, Mo.

Comments

Engineer

jack
Doesn't the government today provide the worker protections for which your grandfather fought? There is OSHA and there are many legal rules on hours and conditions. This and the fact that Unions tended to go to excesses are the reasons for the decline of Union membership. The "Big Chain" grocery stores disappeared from the KC area years ago because they were unionized and the salaries demanded by the union were such that the stores could not compete with the local "independents" that started up. The same situation was a factor in the death of the packing industry in KC.

ChotoCK

put you fail to prove to me that an open ballot, or card count, is a proper remedy. Are you not aware of union scare tactics? Or the violence against those who speak against the union in the work place?

You have also failed in showing how a card count would remedy any of your examples of employer intimidation. Why should my vote be public? If I should happen to vote against unionizing and the vote is for unionizing, do you not think the union will take a dim view of my position? Unions are not known for being bastions of compassion to those who disagree with them.

jack

The pendulum swings both ways.

My grandfather fought pitched battles in the street in order to get the "right" to a safe work place, to not be fired for being sick a day, to not be fired for getting hurt (through no fault of your own) while on the job and, $0.35 per hour.

By the 1960s unions were too busy worrying about their mob investments and feather bedding. So the anti-union movement began.

The last decade or so things have swung way over to the side of the employer. Now people are starting to fight back against that.

Sure hope we don't return to pitched battles in the street over worker rights again.

Marctnts

Every argument presented here seems to be of the "they do it, so I should as well" nature. If the point of this act is really to give employees "free choice", and you don't think management does that now, shouldn't we work to correct those errors rather than give unions their own intimidation tactic?

You might as call it the "Union Membership Increase Act", because it seems that's what the act is designed to do.

putkidsfirst

Choto, whispering and I both gave examples of management intimidation tactics that prove the reason the secret ballot is not what is best for workers. Sorry you can't see that.

Secret ballots give employers time to intimidate employees and convince them to vote against forming a union. It's not a choice made under the best circumstances.

I will repeat - as soon as employers treat employees with respect and pay them a fair wage, we won't need unions. Slamming unions and their structure is not the way to eliminate the need for fair collective bargaining and representation.

ChotoCK

Actually Jack, bad management caused unions, today, things have changed. It is more often than not that unions are now forced on workers by management. Don't forget all the protections unions enjoy from the federal government, and how little protection the average worker enjoys in comparison.

Unions have lost their way, they are more for protecting the corporate structure of the union than the workers who actually pay for and rely on the union.

jack

Bad management causes unions.

ChotoCK

putkidsfirst,
You have yet to make any real points in favor of abolishing the secret ballot.
You will probably be surprised how frequent it is today for unions to skip over the workers and go through employers to organize in a location, called top-down organizing. unions are rarely for the workers today, they need to feed themselves with dues. When was the last piece of legislation sponsored by a union sent through any government body? They spend millions on individual candidates, who rarely actually support any type of labor legislation.

putkidsfirst

I used to live in a small town that was home to a meat packing plant. Some of the workers there wanted union representation and contacted the national union. Within weeks, the company that owned the plant had hired a whole crew of new workers from out of town who criticized the union. They told the workers they would lose salary if they formed a union, that their benefit package would disappear, that unions were corrupt, all kinds of bad things about unions.

By the time the workers had the vote to join the union, even the ones who had initially started the union campaign voted against it. So no union.

And almost immediately after the votes were counted, the new workers from out of town were 'transferred' to another plant in another town. A year later, the workers had received no raise, were working longer shifts and paying more for their health insurance. The plants that had gone union were paying their workers more.

So like I said, companies do underhanded things to prevent unions from forming. If they did not, the EFCA would not be necessary.

mianotkia

Yep unions are so important (now only about 12% of labor is in a union) they are pulling out all the stops to insure their survival.

whispering_to_kc

"Unions that want to organize a workplace make a lot of promises."

I watched 80 technical people threaten to go union once.

Ignored and underpaid for years, they finally worked up the nerve to start organizing efforts with the UAW and IAM to stretch for parity with their union and professional coworkers.

It was a blast to watch management suddenly recognize the union threat and pull together to fight the organizing effort. Suddenly, management found money to offer the technicians extra pay, uniforms, tool allowances and they even treated the boys to weekly pizza/steak lunches.

"We love you!! Really!!"

As soon as the unions were voted down, it was back to business as usual. The technicians got their uniforms but they didn't see anything else that was promised. Even the pizza lunches were discontinued.

It was a secret ballot, but everyone knew how everyone else voted.

I don't like to say, "I told ya so", but I did.

No one "hopes to become the new union shop steward" unless you're either stupid or a newbie. The super-seniority granted to a steward can be handy if you're a newbie but otherwise, no one wants to be a steward.

putkidsfirst

If employers didn't employ underhanded tactics to prevent workers from freely deciding if they want a union, then a secret ballot process would be fine.

But sadly, employers do intimidate employees to prevent them from forming a union.

For that matter, if employers treated all employees fairly and with respect, we wouldn't need unions at all.

 
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