Dems’ card-check sellout

Democrats in the House, Senate and White House were told before last fall’s election that the price for organized labor’s support would have to be paid as soon after the election as possible. They agreed to the price and the payment schedule, but until recently have been wondering if they could at least delay paying the bill.

The price is not support for, but enactment of, what the unions, the president and their friends in Congress refer to euphemistically as the Employee Free Choice Act, which would for all practical purposes eliminate secret-ballot elections to determine whether workers want to unionize. Critics refer to it more accurately as “card-check” because it would allow union organizers who can somehow get 50 percent plus one (1) of a company’s employees to check a card saying they want the union to represent them to declare victory without any election. Candidate Obama promised labor this travesty would be accomplished during his first hundred days in office and “become the law of the land when I am president of the United States,” and more than one Democratic congressional leader bragged that card-check would be among the first bills voted on in the new Congress.

Labor has reason to be more than just hopeful. November’s election winners promised to pay early for the millions of dollars in direct and indirect labor contributions that  allowed them to outspend their opponents. The secretary of Labor is a true believer with the chutzpah to laugh at those who believe in old-fashioned things like free elections and secret ballots.

Labor leaders and Democrats have dismissed as silly the notion that eliminating the secret ballot might lead to intimidation of workers, but anyone who has ever heard of the words “peer pressure” or “union tactics” knows just how much credibility to give such dismissals. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals got it right in a 1983 opinion observing that workers often sign authorization cards “not because they intend to vote for the union in the election but to avoid offending the person who asks them to sign, often a fellow worker, or simply to get the person off their back.” No kidding.

Labor organizers recognize this themselves. Under current law, if unions get a majority of workers to sign such cards, the employer can ask for an election. Unions often lose such elections, as workers who signed for just the reasons so apparent to the judges of the 7th Circuit take advantage of the privacy of the secret ballot to express their real desires. The AFL-CIO is loath to admit this today, but back in the ’60s its organizers were warned not to take the fact that workers were willing to sign such cards all that seriously. A Heritage Foundation researcher found an organizing manual from that era that warned organizers, “It is not until the union obtains signatures from 75 percent or more that the union has more than a 50 percent likelihood of winning the election.”

Public opinion polls show that huge majorities of Republicans, Democrats, union members and even Obama voters oppose card-check, and various economists have argued that at this time, passing it could cost hundreds of thousands of jobs. Interesting but irrelevant, say the labor leaders who need  extraordinary tools to halt the decades-long decline in union membership. They invested hundreds of millions of dollars in a White House and Congress in exchange for a pledge to do away with the secret ballot — and they mean to collect.

Labor has attempted to pass card-check before, but has never prevailed. In this new era, their invoices lie on the desks of those in control. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) publicly promised in January that even if the need to deal with the economic crisis slows things down, card-check will pass this spring.

Hoyer may be right, because in Washington, money, numbers and resolve often trump principle, rights and the views of one’s constituents, but strange things can happen.

Former Sen. George McGovern (S.D.), a liberal if ever there was one, sees Democratic support of card-check as a “betrayal” of liberal, Democratic values and has written, “It’s hard to believe any politician would agree to a law denying millions of employees the right to a private vote.”

Hard to believe. Maybe, but in politics it all depends on what one gets for selling out someone else’s rights. And these guys got a lot.

Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, can be reached at