The Times today has it absolutely dead wrong in its rationale for supporting legislation strengthening the ability of employees to unionize.
There’s simply no way to arrive at the positions of the editors without presupposing that businesses generally harm their workers and that employees are generally better off unionized. One has to assume that wages and benefits always improve in a union environment, which evidence shows to be untrue (even before mandatory union dues are sliced off the top). One also has to believe it’s the union’s right, once it has claimed exclusive rights of negotiation for a set of employees, to use the existing contract rather than a blank slate as a base point for contract talks.
Here’s the second most disturbing paragraph for me:
The most significant change in the bill is known as a majority signup, which would allow employees at a company to unionize if a majority signed cards expressing their desire to do so. Under current law, an employer can reject the majority’s signatures and insist on a secret ballot. But in a disturbingly high number of cases, the employer uses the time before the vote to pressure employees to rethink their decision to unionize.
And the most disturbing one:
The bill’s opponents charge that replacing secret ballots with the majority signup would be undemocratic. But the current system is by no means fair. The law prohibits union advocacy by employees during work hours and allows employers to ban organizers from the work place. But employers can require workers to attend anti-union presentations, and can discipline or fire those who refuse to attend.
The Times apparently doesn’t think the federal laws prohibiting any member of management from threatening, interrogating, persecuting, or spying on workers during a union campaign are strong enough. Conversely, it apparently doesn’t think a similar threat exists from union representatives, who are not prohibited from any of these actions. And it apparently doesn’t think there’s any danger of peer pressure when a group of workers goes around the to their coworkers asking each of them face-to-face to sign their union petition.
Anyone familiar with the process for submitting a ballot in a union election knows that it’s impossible to know who voted for what. It’s carefully designed that way to prevent both the company and union advocates from retaliating against the individual. Employees who want to form unions typically feel passionately about it — passionately enough that coworkers opposed to a union already face the threat of persecution (or worse) by their peers. If anything, the employer’s ability to reject a petition protects the employees, and it could be claimed that those who would do away with it are more anti-worker. But more importantly, this editorial, and this bill, insults workers everywhere by presupposing they are not strong enough or smart enough to make an informed decision on a secret ballot!
The Times and supporting legislators must believe that workers having a union is more important than workers having the right to a vote free of peer pressure from either side. Wait, I don’t have to guess, because the Times says it outright:
Labor unions have a role to play in helping to fix today’s economic ills — most notably, worsening income inequality, a problem that’s caused in part by unions’ decline and the workers’ resulting lack of bargaining power. What’s needed is a Congressional drive to help Mr. Bush see this obvious connection.
A bill designed around the idea that unions are good for workers regardless of potential worker opposition is a faith-based initiative. Is this not obvious? Somebody who believes the opposite, please tell me why my concerns are mistaken, because short of sheer politics, lobbying, or blind ideology, I don’t understand why someone would support making the votes transparent.